Cologne, Germany, Aug 20, 2005 (CNA) - Enthusiasm swept through the crowd as Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Marienfeld Saturday evening for the World Youth Day vigil.
The young people cheered and waved as Pope Benedict was driven through the 2,700-hectare field to the stage, called the Altar’s Hill, from which the Pope led the evening prayers and delivered his address. The hill was lit up with 7,000 candles that had been placed into the earth.
At the beginning of the vigil, the young people cheered again when the Pope blessed a large church bell in memory of John Paul II. It was rung as the choir sang Laudate Omnes Gentes. WYD organizers said the bell would be placed in a Cologne church.
Calling the pilgrims “dear young friends”, Pope Benedict told the 700,000 young people that definitive change and revolution in the world only comes from God and the saints.
“In the last century we experienced revolutions with a common program – expecting nothing more from God, they assumed total responsibility for the cause of the world in order to change it,” he said. “True revolution consists in simply turning to God who is the measure of what is right and who at the same time is everlasting love.”
“[The saints] show us the way to attain happiness, they show us how to be truly human. Through all the ups and downs of history, they were the true reformers who constantly rescued it from plunging into the valley of darkness; it was they who constantly shed upon it the light that was needed to make sense – even in the midst of suffering,” he said.
He urged the young people to contemplate the saints from whom “we learn what it means ‘to adore’ and what it means to live according to the measure of the child of Bethlehem, by the measure of Jesus Christ and of God himself.”
He called on the young people to learn to adore Christ, just as the saints and the three Magi who preceded them.
“The new King, to whom [the three Magi] now paid homage, was quite unlike what they were expecting,” he said. “In this way they had to learn that God is not as we usually imagine him to be. This was where their inner journey began.”
The Magi had to change their ideas about power, God and man, and ultimately, they had to change themselves and learn to be giving of themselves in order to serve Him, the Pope said.
The Pope also made reference to wars and violence, fuelled by ideas that such violence is the will of God. “There are many who speak of God; some even preach hatred and perpetrate violence in God’s name,” he said. “So it is important to discover the true face of God.
“This means that we are not constructing a private God, a private Jesus, but that we believe and worship the Jesus who is manifested to us by the Sacred Scriptures and who reveals himself to be alive in the great procession of the faithful called the Church, always alongside us and always before us,” he proclaimed.
“There is much that could be criticized in the Church,” the Pope admitted. However, he said, it is “consoling to realize that there is darnel in the Church.
”In this way, despite all our defects, we can still hope to be counted among the disciples of Jesus, who came to call sinners,” he said. “The Church is like a human family, but at the same time it is also the great family of God, through which he establishes an overarching communion and unity that embraces every continent, culture and nation.”
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Cologne, Germany, Aug 20, 2005 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI addressed the issue of terrorism head on in his first meeting with 10 of Germany’s Muslim community leaders Saturday. He also reaffirmed his commitment to work toward improved relations between Christians and Muslims, which are “vital.”
The 6 p.m. meeting with Muslim leaders was held at the archbishop’s residence, where the Pope is staying during his four-day trip. Germany has about three million Muslims, mostly of Turkish descent.
“I am certain that I echo your own thoughts when I bring up as one of our concerns the spread of terrorism,” the pontiff said.
Terrorists, he said, “evidently wish to poison our relations, making use of all means, including religion, to oppose every attempt to build a peaceful, fair and serene life together.”
He described terrorism as “a perverse and cruel decision, which shows contempt for the sacred right to life and undermines the very foundations of all civil society.”
He said believers must work together to eliminate all traces of hatred and intolerance, and oppose all manifestations of violence. In doing this, the Pope said, “we will turn back the wave of cruel fanaticism that endangers the lives of so many people and hinders progress towards world peace.”
The Pope acknowledged that relations between Christians and Muslims “have not always been marked by mutual respect and understanding.
“The recollection of these sad events should fill us with shame, for we know only too well what atrocities have been committed in the name of religion,” he continued. “The lessons of the past must help us to avoid repeating the same mistakes. “We must seek paths of reconciliation and learn to live with respect for each other’s identity.”
The Pope said an important way to ensure this is to defend religious freedom and respect for minorities.
“Interreligious and intercultural dialogue between Christians and Muslims cannot be reduced to an optional extra,” he said. “It is in fact a vital necessity, on which in large measure our future depends.”
Reaching out to Muslims, Jews and Christians of other denominations has been one of the main themes of Pope Benedict’s first foreign trip
The Pope met with Jewish community leaders in Germany’s oldest synagogue Friday. About 500 people were in the assembly to hear the Pope call for improved relations and more trust among Christians and Jews.
After his meeting with Muslim leaders, the Pope was to head to Marienfeld for the outdoor evening prayer and vigil, which is one of the highlights of World Youth Day. Some 407,000 pilgrims have registered for WYD, but almost double are expected for Saturday’s vigil and papal mass Sunday morning.
Cologne, Germany, Aug 20, 2005 (CNA) - Christina Ross says she feel she fits right in at World Youth Day. She’s young, she’s faithful and she’s Lutheran. Ross, 20, is just one of many non-Catholics who have decided to participate in WYD 2005.
Organizers say this WYD may have the highest number of non-Roman Catholic participants ever, however at a press conference Saturday organizers did yet have official figures.
The university student from Winnipeg, Canada, is active in her church. She said her Catholic friends were coming to World Youth Day and she wanted to take part.
“I want to grow in my faith and this is a great opportunity. We all believe in the same God,” Ross said, wearing an I Love Jesus T-shirt.
Ross attended the catechesis sessions and other WYD events and said she has grown in her faith. She is planning on attending WYD 2008, which will likely be held in Sydney, Australia.
A Pakistani, by the name of Kenny, also made the trip to WYD. He belongs to an evangelical church and has begun a ministry in Lahore focused on bringing together and strengthening Lahore’s persecuted Christian community.
“I wanted to come because I really admire Pope Benedict and I wanted to meet him,” said Kenny, who Tuesday night had just arrived and was relying on Providence to find a place to stay. Shortly after his arrival, he met a German woman who opened her home to him.
The ecumenical aspects of WYD were also evident in the number of ecumenical services, concerts and events that were held. In addition, Protestant families have hosted thousands of pilgrims. Several Protestant churches and institutions were also used for lodging and activities.
Ecumenism has also been an important theme of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Germany. In his opening address to the pilgrims Thursday, he also greeted those among them who belong to different Christian denominations and who are non-Christian.
His meeting with Christian leaders Friday was another move that demonstrated his commitment to unity.
Cologne, Germany, Aug 20, 2005 (CNA) - In a moving message to Pope Benedict XVI, Christian youth in Baghdad said they were spiritually accompanying the World Youth Day celebrations in Cologne. The young people were unable to leave their war-torn country to attend the international youth gathering in Germany.
Baghdad’s Christian youth, however, held their own parallel celebration in spiritual union with the Pope and the hundreds of thousands of young people in Cologne. More than 1,000 of them, including various Catholic rites and Orthodox Christians, gathered in the Roman Catholic cathedral of the city.
They Pope joyfully received a message from these young Christians through the apostolic nuncio of Iraq, Bishop Fernando Filoni.
“We, young Christians of Baghdad, after adequate preparation … also wanted to celebrate in prayer, reflection and joyous festivities, the current World Youth Day,” their message reads.
“We, too, have gathered to come to know the Lord and ask him what he desires of us in this difficult time for our country and for us,” it continues.
The young people said they remain inspired by Christ’s message to have courage and not be afraid. “While we would like to extend our greetings to the youth in Cologne, we also ask for your apostolic blessing,” they youth said. “We are spiritually accompanying the celebrations here.”