OTD: Pope John Paul II arrives in Toronto

On today’s date in 2002, former pope John Paul II arrived in Toronto for the 10th World Youth Day (WYD2002).

Held July 23-28, WYD2002 was a Catholic youth festival – the 10th since the “celebration of faith” was first established by John Paul II in 1985 – with upwards of 500,000 children participating from around the world.

It would be John Paul II’s last World Youth Day, the theme of which was borrowed from Matthew 5:13-14: “You are the salt of the earth … you are the light of the world.”

With deteriorating health, there was speculation John Paul II would be unable to attend the celebrations; however, he did, and at his arrival address, he thanked all levels of the Canadian government for supporting World Youth Day.

In 1984, Canada Post commemorated former pope John Paul II’s papal visit to Canada with two stamps, including a 32-cent issue.


In 2002, Canada Post issued a 48-cent stamp (Scott #1957) to commemorate WYD2002.

Printed by Ashton-Potter on JAC paper using six-colour lithography, the stamps were die cut with general tagging along each side. Measuring 30 millimetres by 40 millimetres (vertical), the stamps are available in sealed and unsealed booklets of eight stamps. An official first-day cover was also cancelled in Toronto.

Designed by Lise Giguère, of Montréal, with photography by François Brunelle, the stamp incorporated the WYD2002 logo without compromising its aesthetic qualities or diminishing the festival’s religious atmosphere. The prominent logo consists of four elements to symbolize the location, participants and spirit of this international event. The cross symbolizes the presence of Jesus and has a shape similar to the pope’s pastoral staff. A yellow circle represents the attending youth, while the blue section represents the oceans and waters of Canada. The three open sides symbolize the oceans bordering Canada—the Pacific to the west, Atlantic to the east and Arctic to the north. The maple leaf is Canada’s national symbol and representative of the kindness and hospitality foreign guests often receive.


The Crown corporation also issued a 64-cent stamp as part of its commemoration of the former pope’s first visit to Canada.

Going back even further to 1984, Canada Post issued a set of two stamps to mark the papal visit that would take place later that year.

Upon arrival in September 1984, John Paul II became the first pope to step foot in Canada.

The stamps were printed by Ashton-Potter on Harrison and Sons paper with general tagging along two opposite edges. Designed by Louis-Andre Rivard, each stamp features the papal coat of arms laid overtop a map. The first commemorative stamp had a face value of 32 cents (SC #1030) while the second stamp had a face value of 64 cents (SC #1031).

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