Pope John Paul II told a crowd of hundreds of thousands in Toronto Sunday that the sexual abuse scandals rocking his church caused "a deep sense of sadness and shame." But, the pontiff urged Catholic youth to support the vast majority of priest who do good.
Arriving by helicopter as a downpour of rain ended, Pope John Paul II, leader of the world's one billion Roman Catholics, was greeted by a thunderous, singing chorus of Hallelujah. He then made his way through a crowd of an estimated 800,000 people to a specially prepared stage dominated by an enormous Christian cross.
Looking out over the sea of youth gathered for World Youth Day, the Pope spoke in his first speech to the public about the issue of priests sexually abusing their parishioners. The Pope said, "If you love Jesus, love the Church, do not be discouraged by the sins and failings of some of her members. The harm done by some priests and religious to the young and vulnerable."
The pope then told the crowd to remember that "the vast majority of priests only wish is to serve and do good." Be close to them and support them, he said.
But the acknowledgement of the scandals that have rocked the church occupied only a small part of the pope's third visit to Canada.
For most of his trip, the growing numbers of young people treated him like a star cheering, singing and reaching out to him whenever he passed.
Toronto's World Youth Day event, dubbed the "Catholic Woodstock," was celebrated by people from nearly 200 countries. As an acknowledgment of the worldwide presence, participants at the morning mass gave readings in nearly a dozen languages including Inuit and Vietnamese.
While in Toronto, the Pope announced the next World Youth Day would be held in Cologne, Germany, in 2005.
He now leaves Canada for Mexico and Guatemala. This is the Pope's 97th trip since beginning his papacy and, given his fading health and the rigors of Parkinson's disease, most expect this will be his last.