John Paul II meets youth in Denver pilgrimage.

John Paul II, the leader of the world’s 950 million Catholics, came to Denver in August to meet with nearly 190,000 young people from more than 70 countries for a World Youth Day gathering.

The visit—the third American trip and sixtieth overall for this most-traveled pope in history—began with an official welcome from President Bill Clinton. The pope pulled no punches, telling the President, who favors abortion rights, that the nation’s success depends on respect for life.

During his four-day visit to encourage youth, reporters and pilgrims struggled to keep up with the 73-year-old pontiff, who put in at least one 15-hour day of speeches, meetings, and masses. At times, the pope showed signs of weariness, but he was never too tired to dive into the crowds that followed him wherever he went.

In his prepared talks, John Paul II touched on traditional Catholic themes, such as the papacy and the veneration of Mary. But many speeches were full of the kind of talk that would have pleased evangelical listeners. For example, the pope spoke of a personal relationship with Christ at a mass with more than 1,000 young people, saying, “At some point Christ entered your lives and invited you to a greater awareness of your baptismal consecration.”

The pope also broke new ground by making his first public remarks on priestly sexual abuse. John Paul II expressed his concern about “the pain of the suffering and scandal caused by the sins of some ministers of the altar.”

Popular pontiff

Throughout the event, the young people showered the pope with the kind of frenzied adulation usually reserved for rock stars, and they repeatedly chanted their love for the pope: “John Paul II, we love you.” At one point, ...

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