Cardinal Thomas Collins speaks outside City Hall on the first national Pope John Paul II Day. Photo by Evan Boudreau

Toronto marks the inaugural John Paul II Day

  • April 2, 2015

TORONTO - For 24 hours the Vatican flag is flying above Nathan Philips Square as the City of Toronto celebrates the first national John Paul II Day April 2.

The date was celebrated at 1 p.m., bringing a crowd of about 150 people to reflect upon St. John Paul II and raise the flag in his memory.

“What an auspicious day this is to celebrate and to commemorate the life of someone who was such an important figure not just in his homeland in Poland, not just in the Catholic faith but to the world at large,” said Mayor John Tory while address the crowd.

“What we are doing here in the City of Toronto, as we try to do in so many ways, is to be leaders in celebrating the lives and contributions of people like him.”

Tory, who met St. John Paul II when the late pope visited Toronto for World Youth Day in 2002, recalls John Paul's presence.

“You just had a feeling that you were meeting a very special person,” he said.

Cardinal Thomas Collins, who also spoke from the podium, echoed that sentiment.

“In the years of his life he inspired us all ... with the radiant holiness that was shining out through his life,” said Collins following a performance by the choir from St. John Paul II Catholic Secondary School.  

The day comes as the result of an eight-year effort by the Toronto Warsaw Friendship Committee that lobbied the federal government to establish John Paul II Day. Committees chair Chris Korwin-Kuczynski said more than 50,000 postcards were sent to the Prime Minister from Canadians expressing their support for the cause.

Korwin-Kuczynski, a former Toronto city councillor and deputy mayor, continued by saying that he will ensure the Vatican flag will fly at City Hall every year on this day.

“That flag will fly every April 2 until the end of time,” he said. “At least as long as I am alive I will be making sure this happens, that the Vatican flag will fly from City Hall to commemorate and celebrate the life of one of the greatest popes in history.”

During his address, Korwin-Kuczynski praised John Paul's contributions to the liberation of Eastern Europe from communism, the establishment of World Youth Day and for being the first pope in history to travel the world visiting 129 countries.

Barbara Macherczky, an 18-year-old University of Toronto student of Polish heritage, joined in the celebration.

“I really loved JP II,” she said. “I really respect all that he has done and I'm really happy to be here. It is a really good recognition because everyone who feels really connected to JP II and all of his works, they can come out and support this day.”

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