Thousand of young Canadians have been in Rome for the past few days for a pre-World Youth Day gathering. On Thursday, more than 40,000 gathered in St Peter's Square to hear Pope John Paul II. He told them: "Prayer, hearing the Word of God and meditation, the Mass, Eucharistic adoration and the sacrament of confession" are the most important ways to make room for God in our lives. "If the Lord calls you to serve him more closely in the priesthood or in a special consecrated state, follow him with generosity." The Pope said: "I have never tired in my ministry to meet with people. This is the purpose of the pilgrimages and pastoral visits I undertake. Now that the years are passing by, God willing, I do not intend to stop, because I am convinced that Christ can be more easily proclaimed by personal contact." He said it was not easy to be a Christian today: "To proclaim and witness to the Gospel entails many difficulties. We are living at a time when society is influenced by models of life that place pleasure and appearance, in the egotistical sense, in the first place." John Paul II said: "We must confront this way of thinking and acting. However, we must not be afraid, because Christ can change our hearts and accomplish a miraculous 'catch' when we least expect it." On the morning of Palm Sunday, 60,000 young people gathered again in St Peter's Square and held olive branches up to be blessed. A young native Canadian couple in traditional dress made bird calls to symbolise the arrival of the season of light before Mass began. During the service, a group of young Canadians were presented with the World Youth Day Cross. This will be taken to many events across Canada before arriving in Toronto on 18 July 2002 for the start of the next World Youth Day. At the end of the celebration the Holy Father said: "I greet the young Canadians present, led by the archbishop of Toronto, Cardinal Ambrozic, and to them I entrust the cross. "I encourage you to prepare well for the next important appointment of World Youth Day, which has as its theme: 'You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.' He said: "Dear young people, get ready to welcome the young people of the world to your beautiful country by renewing your own fidelity to Christ the Lord. Fidelity to Christ, this is my invitation to all the English-speaking pilgrims. Until we meet in Toronto!"
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