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Several youths who gathered for World Youth Day took time to share with NCR's Robin Edwards their views about this experience, as well as how they feel about the Catholic church and its teachings. What follows is what several said they would like to sham with the pope, if they had been given a chance during his recent visit:

ADAM COMARTIN age 18, Windsor, Ontario

The church has got to start moving with the times. Some things have to change, like having female priests and [dealing with] with racism. ... It is good to meet with other young people who share our views and our religion. The problems for us are the same as back home. It's just that in the U.S. there are a lot more people, and the problems seem multiplied.

JOHN HOSMER 15, Birmingham, Ala.

I would tell him about my youth group and how it has helped me grow closer to God. I've enjoyed Catholicism a lot. I think that priests should be allowed to get married. They talk a lot about family values, but none of them are married so what do they really know? I think marriage would be a good experience for them. ... The church is fulfilling my needs. I find that there are people there to talk to who really understand me.

JENNIFER WILLCUT 18, Thompson Falls, Mont.

Church for me fulfills every spiritual need. It's always there. Overall, I think youth in the church need stronger guidance. I don't see any reason for the church to change, not even on the issue of women's ordination. I think we need more women involved in the church but not necessarily as priests. I feel only men should be priests or preachers for that matter. And as for priests being able to marry, I don't think they should. They are spread pretty thin as it is.


I come from a developing country where there are a lack of funds and unemployment. The youth are confronted by the (lure) of material things. AIDS is a big problem for everybody but especially the youth. Many of them live alone without parents. A lot of them are dying. But I don't think the church should promote the use of condoms. That would be like promoting immorality. ... Overall, I think the church needs to get more involved in giving the young people things to keep busy. You know the saying, An idle mind is a devil's workshop.' We need programs to keep our young Catholics knowing and excited about the Catholic faith.

PERCY RAMSEY 19, Detroit

I don't hear much about the pope back home, so I really wanted to know what he was talking about and hear from his own mouth how he feels about a lot of things. I'll be honest with you: I think the pope talks a good game, but I wonder if what he says are his true thoughts or just what he can say because he is the pope. I don't down nobody for their opinions. ... The church has too many rules. When I look at a stop sign I just see it as another way for the government to tell me what to do. Do I follow all church rules? I won't say I do or don't. But the way I see it, you can choose to go into whatever religion you want. If you don't like, you can always change.

PAT DOTY 17, Topeka, Kan.

The pope speaks like he really cares. I like his message to us that we can make a difference in the world. If I had the chance to talk to the pope, I would tell him about how anxious American youth are to get involved. What many of them need is just a push to get the ball rolling and keep it moving. ... I guess I'm kind of the rebel in the crowd. I believe in women's rights to be priests. But I am a fence-sitter when it comes to abortion.

AHN-MAI NGUYEN 16, Vietnamese Catholic group from California

I am very proud to be Catholic. So many people are separated by countries and cultures, but here we are linked by our faith in the church and Jesus Christ. Many of the young people I know are torn between two cultures -- the Vietnamese and American cultures. I think the Catholic church is the one thing that holds us together. ... I am totally prolife, but I don't think priests should be allowed to marry. I believe they can only be devoted to one thing at a time. ... As for the future, I would like to see the church more involved in missionary work.

FELISE ROPATI 18, Eastern Samoa Diocese of Pago Pago

On our island we are very poor. And the young people there are attracted by fancy clothes and gangs. Youth around the world are getting involved in too much violence. We need more of these types of gatherings for youth. ... (The pope) inspired us to promote peace. When we go back, I would like to share what I have learned here.


Christians are suffering in the Sudan. We have so many problems ... [and are] not allowed to practice our faith actively because of government restrictions. I'm thankful that the church is helping youth in many different ways, especially in the schools. ... There is a pretty basic thinking on abortion -- absolutely not. There it is no big issue. I am totally against women priests, too. You see in my country, man is always first. And yes, I think it should stay that way.

ANGELA BRANTZEN 20, Mainz, Germany

The problem I see with the church is the need to make more people interested in it. Most people back home don't like the pope. They only see the church as something bad. But I think the pope really loves us. It's sometimes hard to be young and Catholic. If there was one thing I could change, I would like to see the church become a real family, like it feels here.

PEDRO RIVERO 21, Guatemalan native now living in Los Angeles

I'm a seminarian and I hope to get ordained [as a Vincentian priest] in the year 2000. I would like to ask the pope, "How soon will there be a Vatican Council III?" There are so many problems and concerns that have come up since Vatican II. ... I would like to see the clergy and religious become more people persons. I don't want to be like some of them who lock themselves up in a rectory. That's why we are losing youth to other religions and drugs and crime. We need to be there for the youth with an open door. ... I don't disagree with church teachings, but I do have questions about some of them.

LAURA VENTURI 21, Rome, Italy

It is interesting to see that the church is made up of so many different people. People asked me why I came here from Italy since I see the pope all the time. But I want to follow the pope, no matter where he goes. ... I agree with what the pope said about violence and the media, but on abortion I think it should be legalized. When it comes to women's ordination or priests being able to many, I am opposed to both. The women have their precise role and the men have them ... If men want to get married they shouldn't choose to become priests.

GARY GORDON 17, Denver

It's cool, all these young people getting together to share this religion. I've learned that religion cannot divide a nation as long there is peace and understanding.... I'm an Oglala Sioux, and I would like to see the young generations get more involved in Indian culture. I don't think the church fosters the support of our heritage and customs as much as it should. In this we need a lot of help, and I see the pope as one of our biggest


We need more money in the black neighborhoods back home. A lot of parents have to work two jobs just to support their kids. ... I'm not Catholic. I'm Baptist. But I like being here. I have a lot of respect for the Catholic church and what it does to help people. I think I would have fun being a Catholic, but I'm going to stay Baptist, I think. ... The only thing I don't understand is why the Catholic church won't allow altar girls. I mean if the guys can do it, why can't the girls?

RENEE STRAUB 16, Mobile, Ala.

World Youth Day made me very proud to be Catholic. I think the church will stay strong. If young people keep doing what they are doing here, it will be great. ... I am grateful to the pope for this opportunity to, come and see so many young people just like me.

ARTIE ALMEIDA 15, Dallas, Texas

I like this because it's bringing me closer to my faith and it's bringing people from all over the world together. Here they forget racism and discrimination and try to be together as one big family. Basically, I think the church does everything it should in terms of helping people, but I wish it would go more into issues like drugs and crime and sponsoring programs to help young people with their problems. ... I'm a little pro-choice and a little not. I think if a woman gets raped she should be able to get an abortion. On that I disagree with the church, but that's all.

MICHAELA JONES 16, Jasper, Ind.

I never experienced anything like this before in my life. It makes me want to cry when I think about it. I just keep thinking about those who couldn't come to experience this. ... I feel the church is answering my spiritual needs. Our youth group is open and caring and gives me a chance to talk about some of the problems young people face. ... I never give much thought to controversial issues. I am totally opposed to abortion. ... I don't feel priests should be allowed to marry. They need to be totally devoted to God's work. But I feel strongly that women should be given the chance to be priests just as the men. If there is one thing I would like to see changed it is that.

EDDIE BURRELL 18, Los Angeles, Calif.

The church is making an effort now to listen to youth. I think it finally realizes that we are the future and that we will one day have to take care of this world. ... The church is too closed-minded when it comes to some things like women's ordination. It's stuck in its old ways. The church needs to realize where the church is now and where it is going and how it can fulfill the needs of its people now and get out of the 18th century. As for the future, there is a lot that needs to be changed in the church. I think we can work it out.

KHUONG HOANG 28, Stockton, Calif.

If I could talk to the pope I would say, "Please pray for the people back in my country [Vietnam]." The main problem we face in Vietnam is mainly the need for political reform. The youth in my country are struggling just to get an education and for the chance to survive and for freedom. The main issue there is freedom I hope that one day, my people have a chance for happiness like I have found in the U.S. ... As for the future, I don't expect anything from the Catholic church in terms of major reforms. I am satisfied with it just the way it is.
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Title Annotation:photos and comments from youth at World Youth Day 1993; Papal Visit
Author:Edwards, Robin
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Cover Story
Date:Aug 27, 1993
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