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"Cool to be Catholic!"

A visitor came to Canada last month. And he had a message. It was an old message, and the messenger himself was old.

Repeating words that themselves were two thousand years old, he addressed them to an audience of young people gathered together on the shores of Lake Ontario.

In our sophisticated modern world the whole event should have been a turn off. It was, instead, electrifying.

That old man, those old words, that old message brought joy, not boredom; inspiration, not indifference; vibrance, not lassitude.

His hearers, young people from more nations than are numbered in the United Nations, responded with cheers of happiness, with enthusiasm, with a sincerity that stunned many in an older generation weary under constant bombardment from the failed prophets of worldly materialism.

Toronto, long regarded as the centre of Canadian capitalism, never saw anything like it. Young Catholics took over streets that once were the preserve of others. The man on the white horse gave way to the man in white papal robes whose simple message was love.

"Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

"Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth."

"Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted."

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be filled."

"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy."

"Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God."

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God."

"Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of justice, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs."

The simplicity of the message, the simplicity of the messenger, the simplicity of the audience's response, could be summed up in the response by one of its young members to a television interviewer: "It's cool to be Catholic!"

This in the third millennium after Christ and it's cool to be Catholic, cool to be Christian, cool to be followers of Jesus.

From the shores of the Sea of Galilee to the shores of Lake Ontario, there was much more than symbolism in the arrival by boat of the original Preacher and the arrival by helicopter of Pope John Paul II, with his call to the young persons gathered to hear him to become the salt of the earth, the light of the world.

Those in attendance, or who viewed all the celebrations on television, will never forget the occasion.

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