Cologne, Germany, Aug 16, 2005 (CNA) - World Youth Day 2005 “will be celebrated with two Popes—one in heaven above and the other here on earth,” said Cardinal Joachim Meisner today in his comments at the opening press conference before more than 400 international journalists.
The cardinal referred to Pope John Paul II—who died in April, but who had initiated the World Youth Days 20 years ago—and to his successor, Pope Benedict XVI. Prior to his death, Pope John Paul had expressed his desire to attend the gathering in Cologne.
“Both [popes] worked to make this World Youth Day a reality,” said the archbishop of Cologne, who is the primary host of the international event.
The cardinal said Germany and the young pilgrims are looking forward to welcoming Pope Benedict XVI, but he added that John Paul is present at this WYD in spirit and “is looking down at us from above.
“Pope John Paul II wanted young people to be builders of a civilization of love,” he continued. “And the theme—We have come to worship him—describes the World Youth Day program and the program for all future World Youth Days.
“Worshipping God is not about piety here on earth. It is a prerequisite to building this civilization of love,” he said.
The late Pope’s dream was to bring young believers together in one country and to give them an opportunity to grow and celebrate their faith, the cardinal said.
“The fact that there are so many young people here in Cologne demonstrates that they understand the legacy of this great Holy Father and that they see themselves as part of this tradition,” Cardinal Meisner stated.
Bishop Josef Clemens of the Pontifical Council for the Laity confirmed WYD “is an idea that will be sustained” by the Church. He said it is part of the council’s mandate to “make sure that World Youth Day continues.”
Cologne, Germany, Aug 16, 2005 (CNA) - After three years of careful planning, World Youth Day 2005 has finally arrived, and the German bishops agree that the international event will be profound for the Church in Germany, in Europe and around the world.
“This spiritual event is meant to bring to life and joy in the faith and to show that faith has a very important place in our society,” said Cardinal Joachim Meisner at the opening press conference in Cologne today.
The archbishop of Cologne and Cardinal Karl Lehmann, president of the German Bishops’ Conference, both expressed trust and confidence in the young pilgrims and their ability to witness to the Gospel.
“World Youth Day is among the largest gatherings in the whole world,” Cardinal Lehmann said in his remarks. “It shows that we must not withdraw into our small church communities” but be open to the larger Church.
He believes that people can learn a lot about faith and about life from the young pilgrims. In particular, he mentioned that pilgrims from developing countries could offer important insights and new perspectives.
Bishop Franz-Josef Bode, president of the German bishops’ Commission for Youth, commented on the Days of Encounter that preceded the gathering in Cologne. About 120,000 young people from 170 countries were hosted in parishes across Germany. There, they shared the cultural and spiritual life of their host community.
Bishop Bode remarked that the pilgrims left an important mark on the German communities that hosted them.
“New friendships were made … and communities experienced new ways of expressing faith,” he said.
He spoke of the 4,300 social service projects in which the young pilgrims participated during these Days of Encounter. He spoke as well, of the enthusiasm and profound faith expressed at the send-off masses, held in each German diocese, before the pilgrims left for Cologne. Each mass gathered between 5,000 and 20,000 pilgrims.
The bishops thanked the German people for the warm welcome they have extended to pilgrims and their great hospitality. But, close to the end of the press conference, Cardinal Meisner took it one step further and invited the German people to go with the flow of the Spirit.
“In Germany we have a tendency to plan everything,” he said. “Let’s let things happen now and let the Holy Spirit take over.”
, Aug 16, 2005 (CNA) - The Colombian Bishop’s conference (CEC) confirmed the assassination of two priests in Ocaña, at the north of the city of Santander, a zone with an active presence of the FARC (The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia).
In an official press release signed by the President of the CEC, Msgr. Luis Augusto Castro, the bishops regretted the assassination of the priests Vicente Rozo Bayona, 49, Jesus Emilio Mora, 60, and of two civilians.
According to the police, the priests were traveling in a vehicle with the contractor Miguel Carrascal, in charge of the construction of a local police outpost in Teorema, and with Edgar Vergel, a builder on the same construction site. The vehicle received bursts of gun shots from a hill, allegedly the fighters were guerrilleros from the FARC.
It is believed that the purpose of the attack was to kill the workers. The guerilla already threatened workers working on this new police outpost.
The bishops consider this a “heinous crime that plunged into mourning the Church of Colombia, particularly the families and faithful of the Parish of San José de Convencion y del Monte Carmelo, the parish in which they served as pastoral ministers, as model priests and beloved from their community.”
“Whoever the instigators or executioners of this violent and sacrilege act might be, we condemn it as a crime that dishonors those who committed them, and that thwarts the aspirations of reconciliation and peace that the Church preaches”, they added.
The Police chief in the north of Santander, José Humberto Henao, explained that they shot from the hill without any prior word exchange. They were simply riddled with bullets. These priests did not receive any threat, and on the contrary they were very much liked by the people here.
San Antonio, Texas, Aug 16, 2005 (CNA) - In its latest issue, Time Magazine has honored San Antonio’s Archbishop Jose Gomez as one of the 25 most influential Hispanics in the United States.
Sharing the issue with the likes of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, actress Jennifer Lopez, and Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Archbishop Gomez has developed a reputation for being holy and humble but also tremendously influential in circles ranging from the local Hispanic population in Texas, to the U.S. federal government and even the Vatican.
Archbishop Charles Chaput of Denver, where Gomez served as auxiliary bishop before being appointed Archbishop of San Antonio in December, is quoted in the issue as saying, "He gets listened to in the state of Texas and in the U.S. Bishops' Conference. He gets listened to in Rome. And I think he'll be listened to by the Federal Government when it comes to immigration law."
The article noted that the 53-year old Monterrey, Mexico native is seen as “a natural conciliator admired for uniting rich and poor and Anglo and Hispanic Catholics behind Denver's Centro Juan Diego, a hybrid Latino religious-instruction and social-services center hailed as a national model.”
The Archdiocese of San Antonio is considered by many experts to be the center of the Hispanic Catholic Church in the U.S. Currently, Hispanics make up some 39% of the nation’s Catholic population, and many think that number could jump to a majority by the year 2020.
Currently, Archbishop Gomez is the U.S.’s only Latino archbishop, and some watchers speculate that a new position of Cardinal could be in the future for the soft-spoken prelate.
Cologne, Germany, Aug 16, 2005 (CNA) - World Youth Day (WYD) 2005 has recorded the highest number of registrations in WYD history. As of yesterday, 405,000 young Catholics from almost 170 countries have registered for the event.
Organizers were expecting 400,000 pilgrims, and some 800,000 are expected for the final Mass.
Cardinal Joachim Meisner, archbishop of Cologne, announced the latest statistics at a press conference today.
There was a surge in registrations in the last week, said the cardinal. At press time, organizers reported that 105,000 German youth had registered, including the volunteers, making them the largest group represented at WYD 2005.
The number of priests at WYD has also hit a record high. Organizers were expecting about 5,000 priests, but the number has nearly doubled to 9,805. Cardinal Meisner told the press conference that organizers do not have enough stoles and garments for all of these priests at this time.
About 2,700 journalists from around the world have received official accreditation.
Cologne, Germany, Aug 16, 2005 (CNA) - The city of Cologne has been invaded by fervent, joyful and energetic Catholic youth—405,000 of them. Pilgrims are everywhere in the German city—in the streets, parks, subways, trains and churches—to celebrate World Youth Day (WYD) 2005, from Aug. 16 to Aug. 21.
This morning, the platforms of the city’s train and subway stations were congested with pilgrims singing and chanting. This exuberance is likely to continue for the rest of the week. At Cologne’s central station, one group of about 25 Namibians danced in a circle and sang in harmony while other pilgrims took photos and video footage.
“We had to come here,” one Namibian pilgrim told CNA, explaining why her group of 100 young people decided to undertake the journey to Cologne from Africa. “We had to come to this international event that celebrates the universality of the Church.”
On another platform, French pilgrims were chanting Alleluia. Outside the station, Peruvian and Argentinean pilgrims cheered as they each took turns singing hymns.
The enthusiasm has been mounting all week. At a press conference earlier today, Msgr. Heiner Koch said police had told him that things were proceeding smoothly in the city yesterday and that everything was calm. “You haven’t been in the churches!” he told the officers, referring to the lively and packed celebrations that have been taking place in the last few days.
The young people seemed to be gearing up for the official opening of WYD 2005 this afternoon. Three masses will be celebrated in three of the larger cities of the archdiocese, where most of the pilgrims are staying.
More than 50,000 pilgrims will fill the RheinEnergieStadion in Cologne for the opening mass with the archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Joachim Meiser. Another 51,000 will attend mass with Cardinal Karl Lehmann, president of the German Bishops’ Conference, in Dusseldorf, a municipality just north of Cologne, at the LTU Arena. The third mass at the Hofgarten in Bonn, located south of Cologne, will be celebrated by Bishop Franz-Josef Bode, president of the German bishops’ Commission for Youth. The third venue can also accommodate more than 50,000 people.
The 405,000 registered pilgrims are staying in and around the three municipalities. While many have been given lodging by host families, most are staying in schools, convents, church halls and other institutions until the end of the week.
Carey, Ohio, Aug 16, 2005 (CNA) - Harassment from a fundamentalist group calling themselves the “Ministry of Annoyance” caused some faithful visiting an Ohio Marian shrine for the Feast of the Assumption to take up fists in defense of their Church.
According to WNWO News in Ohio, three teens and one adult were arrested in the melee which took place at the Our Lady of Consolation Shrine on Sunday.
For the past 130 years, the shrine has hosted a celebration on the feast of the Assumption of Mary, which falls annually on August 15th.
According to reports, the group’s presence at the shrine is nothing new. They have shown up at the pilgrimage site for the last two years calling on Catholics to abandon their belief in God and the Church, but this year was different.
On Sunday, instead of staying together in one location, the so-called “street preachers” dispersed themselves into the crowd of thousands where arguments began among some 300-400 people.
Fr. John Raphael, rector of the shrine, told WNWO that, "They show up with video cameras, send threatening faxes, and are there to cause problems…I instruct my staff and those faithful who show up to ignore them.”
"They go to other places”, he added, “and do the same thing. I tell my staff to pray for them."
David Hartline, a frequent shrine visitor, noted on his blog, the Catholic Report, that “the ‘Ministry or Minister of Annoyance’ marched with the pilgrims shouting that Catholic dogma about Mary and just about anything else that Catholics believe is wrong.”
He added however, that no major Evangelical leader or church backs “such an angry group.”
Hartford, Conn., Aug 16, 2005 (CNA) - Following the example of the tremendously popular Lance Armstrong “live strong” bracelets, a Connecticut youth organization has created a new wristband honoring both the late John Paul II and new Pope Benedict XVI.
“Youth for the World” has debuted the new arm wear, largely as a way of welcoming and showing solidarity with Pope Benedict. The white wristbands come emblazoned with the words: "JPII BE NOT AFRAID, BXVI WE COME TO WORSHIP HIM."
The group’s website noted that the wristbands are also a way for older people and youth who cannot travel to the World Youth Day celebration in Cologne, Germany this week, to show their support for the event and in support of those in attendance.
Annie Longon, a 23-year old graduate of North Carolina’s Duke University, said that "The wristbands are an obvious way for youth and young adults, who felt so loved by Pope John Paul II, to connect with the Holy Father, Benedict XVI."
Youth for the World is a new organization devoted to supporting, building and spreading the Catholic faith among the world’s young people. They seek to fulfill John Paul II’s call for a “new evangelization.”
As Longon notes: "The young adults of today who enter the real world, who are working and out on their own, need real solutions, real answers, real support, and real meaning in their lives."
More information about Youth for the World or the wristbands can be found at: www.YouthfortheWorld.com
Cologne, Germany, Aug 16, 2005 (CNA) - In statements to Vatican Radio, the President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, Archbishop Stanislao Rylko, said that thanks to World Youth Day, Cologne has been transformed into a “beacon of hope” for Europe and the world.
“This city, located in the heart of Europe, is a beacon of hope amidst a serious crisis of identity” the continent is experiencing, the Polish archbishop said. “Europe is denying, at least at the institutional level, its own Christian roots,” he added.
Archbishop Rylko, whose Vatican dicastery is responsible for organizing WYD, also noted that the event in Cologne “is a challenge for them, because they must show the whole world, through their witness of faith, that Christianity is not just the glorious past of our continent, but that it is also part of the present and the future, since young people are the new generation of disciples of Christ.”
The archbishop also pointed out the importance that each person be himself or herself, and “this is only possible by kneeling down before God.” Therefore the message of this World Youth Day is that “we must strive to live our lives as true adoration of God, rejecting all forms of idolatry that modern culture imposes on us so strongly. Only this way does one’s life have full meaning.”
Cologne, Germany, Aug 16, 2005 (CNA) - Yvonne Aquino, Aldo Polo and Jorge Rodriguez never thought they would make a two-week pilgrimage to World Youth Day (WYD) 2005 in Cologne, Germany.
But about a year ago, the parishes of St. Johann and St. Marien in Donaueschingen, located in southern Germany, informed Cristo Redentor Parish in Trujillo, Peru, that they had funds to welcome three young people for WYD, Aug. 16-21.
The three young Peruvians accepted the invitation and were hosted in the small German town for one week, prior to WYD, to participate in the Days of Encounter with another 33 French-speaking Canadian youth.
The Days of Encounter is an opportunity for pilgrims to share in the life of a German parish community for a few days, learn about the culture, and grow in faith. The Days of Encounter are not new to the WYD program; they have existed since WYD 1997.
From Aug. 11 to Aug. 14, the pilgrims in Donaueschingen followed a tight program, which included daily morning prayer and mass, as well as a visit of the town. Pilgrims gathered for community meals every day and were offered the possibility to tour some historic sites.
Activities differed in each German parish. The local press has been reporting on the presence of young Catholics—some from as far away as Zimbabwe, Hong Kong and Sri Lanka—in parish communities across the country. Their reports often portray the fervent faith of the young pilgrims.
The three Peruvian pilgrims in Donaueschingen commented on the warm welcome of the German people and noted the absence of young people at mass and church prayer services.
“Young people are needed in the Church,” lamented Rodriguez. “It is necessary for the Church to be young now.”
The 25-year-old works in a shoe factory in Trujillo and lives in the slums just outside the city. He said he hopes to return to his community after WYD and be “a living example…and witness of Christ’s word” to others.
“My faith holds an important place in my heart and I want it to grow,” he said, explaining why he accepted the invitation to attend WYD.
“I hope to learn a lot,” said Aquino, referring to the upcoming events in Cologne with Pope Benedict XVI. “I hope to progress in my spiritual life and I hope it helps me to become a better person.”
The 28-year-old catechist and obstetrician said her experience in the 22,000-member town demonstrated to her the grandeur of God. “We have so many differences and we speak different languages, but we all believe in one God. God has blessed us this week. He has shown us that he wants us to open our minds and our hearts,” she said.
For the last 15 years, the two German parishes, numbering no more than 7,800 people, has been linked with the Cristo Redentor Parish through a development program called “Partnerschaft.” Though small, the German parishes have managed to support several community development projects at Cristo Redentor. The first project was a bakery. The most recent project was a community center.
The encounter this week was significant since most of the German parishioners had never met young people from their twin parish in Peru.
Edith Lienhard, her husband and three children hosted one of the 33 Canadian pilgrims from Montreal. She commented on how the pilgrims’ stay in Donaueshingen united the two parishes, which mostly had worked separately in the past.
“There are many struggles and problems in Donaueschingen,” she said, “but [since the pilgrims have come] things are a little bit better these days.”
Lienhard, a chemical engineer, said she and her family received much from the WYD experience in her town.
“I have seen the real gift of welcoming somebody,” she said, adding that each time she hosts someone in her home “it opens my heart again and again.”
Rome, Italy, Aug 16, 2005 (CNA) - Despite positive signs from the Church in communist China, the Holy See remains cautiously optimistic about the future of Vatican-Beijing relations, says Vatican analyst Sandro Magister.
In his latest column for L’Espresso, Magister points to positive signs such as the presence of Chinese young people at World Youth Day, and especially “the growing rapprochement between the two Catholic communities of China: the underground Church, with 8 million faithful, and the Patriotic community, with 4 million.”
According to Magister, the rapprochement between both Catholic communities “alarmed many authorities in Beijing” but “the reconciliation between clandestine and patriotic believers has continued moving forward.” Magister explains the importance of recent episcopal ordinations in China which received both government and Vatican approval, and which have finally unified under one pastor several communities that had been divided since Mao Tse-Tung created the Patriotic church.
Magister states that the “China issue is certainly one of the most burning questions of Benedict XVI’s pontificate. And the authorities of the Holy See are preparing to confront it with extreme caution.”
The silence from official Vatican offices on the China issue is a sign of this prudence. According to Magister, it contrasts with the exaggerated optimism of some Catholic organizations who think the solution to the tensions is just around the corner.
In his column, Magister includes the sharp analysis of Father Gianni Criveller, collaborator of the Holy Spirit Study Center in Hong Kong, one of the best think tanks in the world on Christianity in China. Father Criveller’s article fiercely criticizes positions that are overly optimistic about the future of Christianity in China, especially the book Jesus in Beijing, by the American author David Aikman.
Magister’s complete column can be found at: www.chiesa.espressonline.it/index.jsp?eng=y
Cologne, Germany, Aug 16, 2005 (CNA) - As part of the Festival of Youth at World Youth Day Cologne, the St. George Choir which performs using sign language will take the stage on August 16 in Cologne and at the WYD vigil on August 21 at Marienfeld.
The choir, the only of its kind in Germany, includes members who have hearing problems, members who are completely deaf, and others who are hearing impaired. The 18 members of the choir are between the ages of 16 and 24.
The St. George Choir was founded last year with the express purpose of giving its members the chance to participate in WYD. The choir’s participation is part of an overall strategy by organizers to make it possible for the disabled to be more involved in the different activities.
Riga, Latvia, Aug 16, 2005 (CNA) - On Sunday, speaking to tens of thousands of faithful who had turned out for the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, Latvian Cardinal Janis Pujats blasted a recent gay pride parade which had taken place in the city of Riga, saying that it was simply a way to “show off…sin.”
“In Soviet times we faced atheism, which oppressed religion; now we have an era of sexual atheism,” said the cardinal to a packed basilica in the small Baltic town of Aglona. The town is home to a shrine to the Blessed Virgin and the state’s most visited basilica.
Cardinal Pujats recalled this past July’s “Pride 2005” parade--the first of its kind in Riga, which brought out some 50 participants and thousands of spectators.
Prior to the parade, marchers took place in an Anglican church ceremony which the cardinal particularly chided.
“This form of atheism is even more infectious and dangerous, spiritual values disappear in a swamp of sexual irregularity,'' he said. ``Just imagine! Homosexuality is viewed as a value, although it is one of the most serious sins! If gays and lesbians had gone to a church to repent their sins, we would have welcomed it. But this parade was intended to show off their sin. Why did they do it in a church? To show how absurd they are?'' he said.