Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of August 29, 2005
The hunt for Communion at WYD
Reality hits amoung a sea of sleeping bags
By MICHAEL LAWTON
Catholic News Service
At 6 a.m., Marienfeld was a sea of sleeping bags as far as the eye could see. The first heads were emerging from bags, and pilgrims were braving the cold to make their way to washstands to brush their teeth.
Following an Aug. 20 vigil with Pope Benedict XVI, hundreds of thousands of young pilgrims had spent the night sleeping on plastic sheets spread out on the damp, clay soil of Marienfeld, a former open-cast mining area west of Cologne.
Fitzgerald Umah, president of the Catholic student association at the University of Lagos, Nigeria, said the atmosphere had been wonderful, but he had been cold.
"We're not used to this down there in Africa," he said. "Luckily, our host families gave us warm clothes, cardigans and blankets."
Slowly this huge temporary city came to life, and pilgrims began to make their way to the stands where they could get breakfast: a can of Mediterranean salad, yogurt, rye bread and margarine.
As Mass began, the young people settled down slowly. Some had trouble seeing the artificial Pope's Hill, which had been built in the centre of the field with dirt from many countries, and instead watched on projection screens.
Three thousand priests in white and yellow cassocks and carrying yellow umbrellas began to fan out from the Pope's Hill to distribute Communion.
Mark Feeney of Edmonton missed Communion; he had to leave with the rest of his group to catch a train to the airport.
"I did receive a blessing from a priest," he said. "Even if it's not the same, it was very uplifting. When we get back home, I do hope I'll be able to attend daily Mass to receive Communion. Hopefully, our real journey begins when we get home."