The president and vice-president of the United States might have been squirming in the face of the world’s great moral leader, but the hundred of thousands of pilgrims who went to be with Pope John Paul II couldn’t get enough of him.
The Holy Father spent four days in Denver for what many young pilgrims say was the event of their lifetimes. He was with them always, continually exhorting them to defend life and fight against “the culture of death.”
He began his visit to North America with an appeal in front of President Bill Clinton for “equal justice for all, lasting justice and peace. America, defend life,” he went on. “All the great causes that are yours today will have meaning only to the extent that you guarantee the right to life.”
As he was leaving the country he gave a final warning, this time as the pro-abortion Vice-President, Al Gore looked on.
“The culture of life means respect for nature and protection for God’s work of creation,” he said. “In a special way it means respect for human life from the moment of conception until its natural end.” Pope John Paul II doesn’t care if it’s the president of the United States or a hockey arena full of young Catholics – he is uncompromising about the right to life. The dignity of each individual person is his recurrent theme, no matter who he’s speaking to.
“Precisely when science and medicine are achieving a greater capacity to safeguard health and life,” he said, during the vigil to the papal Mass. “Abortion and euthanasia – the actual killing of another human being – are hailed as ‘rights’ and solutions to ‘problems’ – an individual’s or society’s”
Officially there were about 3,000 pilgrims from Canada who made the journey to see the Pope but organizers say there were probably more who didn’t go with the church-sponsored trips. The pilgrimage attracted 186,000 young people from more than 100 countries. The Mass which ended his trip drew more than 400,000.
The returning pilgrims report an exhilaration and a renewal of their faith and commitment through the meeting.
There was no civil disobedience in front of any o the abortuaries in the area but there were prayer vigils and protests, especially at the Planned Parenthood abortion clinic. Joe Schiedler, of Pro-life Action League, spoke to the Toronto pilgrims and echoed the Pope’s teachings.
The Pope reaffirmed the church’s traditional moral teachings and urged the young people “not to give in to this widespread false morality. Do not stifle your conscience,” he said.
Although some of the North American media were anxious to report on dissention it mainly failed to materialize. Local pilgrims report that the protestors who did appear were mainly fundamentalist Christians who joined the Catholics who reject some or most of their own faith.
“So many problems arise when people think of the Church as theirs when in face she belongs to Christ,” the Pope said of dissenters. “Polarization and destructive criticism have no place among those who are of the household faith.”