Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of August 22, 2005
Enthusiasm high as World Youth Day opens
By MICHAEL LAWTON
Catholic News Service
World Youth Day activities began in three German cities Aug. 16 with simultaneous Masses, overflowing crowds, waving flags and the energy of more than 200,000 young people from countries all over the world.
In Cologne, Cardinal Joachim Meisner welcomed more than 50,000 pilgrims to his city by reminding them that Cologne was the city of the Magi, "the first pilgrims to Christ," whose relics are said to be in the cathedral.
"You are all following in their footsteps," he said in his welcome at the Aug. 16 Mass in RheinEnergie Stadium.
The cardinal repeatedly was interrupted by the applause of the flag-waving young people. On one occasion he told them to keep quiet and let him talk, so they cheered louder.
On another occasion, after he had finally silenced them, the cardinal, known as a strict theological disciplinarian, said with a smile, "The people will be saying I have a lot of authority, since I was able to get you to obey me."
Italians largest group
Archbishop Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, opened the proceedings with greetings in five languages. There was especially loud applause when he spoke in Italian - Italians are the largest group at World Youth Day and were by far the largest group at the Mass.
"You are entering on a great adventure, and the main figure in the adventure is you," he said.
Following the arrival of the World Youth Day cross in the stadium, the service began with the World Youth Day hymn, We Have Come to Worship Him.
During the offertory procession, Meisner had difficulty lifting the barrel of beer carried by the Cologne pilgrims, and he took evident pleasure at the carnival fool's cap they also brought.
Bonn and Dusseldorf
The liturgies in Bonn and Dusseldorf were the same as in Cologne. In Bonn, World Youth Day officials said more than 100,000 packed the Hofgarten park for an opening Mass with Bishop Franz-Josef Bode of Osnabruck, the German bishops' head of youth affairs.
In Dusseldorf, with the LTU Arena full, some 6,000 packed the city's Burg Square to watch the Mass on giant TV screens.
A young man who identified himself only as Sebastian from the German town of Zwickau described the "tremendous atmosphere" at the Mass and called it "almost as good as a football match."
He said the Church leaders at the Mass showed that "maybe they were not so old after all."
After the Mass, German President Horst Koehler made a surprise appearance, but he was prevented from speaking for several minutes as "the wave" made its way around the stadium four times.
Koehler, who often has criticized the lethargy of German society, gave up trying to speak and allowed the band to strike another chorus of a hymn, after which he told participants he wanted their enthusiasm for the world and for Germany.