400,000 faithful gather inCologne for World Youth Day
16 August 2005, COLOGNE - Three large masses will mark the official launch Tuesday of the Catholic Church's 20th World Youth Day in Cologne.
16 August 2005
COLOGNE - Three large masses will mark the official launch Tuesday of the Catholic Church's 20th World Youth Day in Cologne.
More than 400,000 young Catholics from all over the world are expected to attend the six-day festival of faith, with Pope Benedict XVI arriving in Cologne on Thursday amid a huge security operation.
About 12,000 security and police officers have been assigned for the event, which is being held under the motto of 'We have come to worship him.'
The 78-year-old Pontiff has chosen his native Germany for his first trip outside Italy since being elected pope in April.
"The World Youth Day will show that those of faith have an essential place in life," said Cologne Cardinal Joachim Meisner at a press conference Tuesday called to launch the festival.
Three large masses to be held in football stadiums in Cologne and Duesseldorf and the vast Hofgarten in Bonn will mark the opening of the festival.
Thousands of young pilgrims began arriving in Cologne earlier this week, turning the Rhineland city into a sea of bright blue, the colour of the World Youth Day backpacks.
"The whole world has arrived in Germany," said Bishop Franz-Josef Bode.
But World Youth Day will also represent a major test as to whether the new pope can warm the hearts of church followers and to step out from the shadows of his predecessor, John Paul II, who was one of the most popular pontificates in modern history.
Marking the event, a leading German teenage pop music and celebrity magazine, Bravo, said Tuesday that it was welcoming the pope in Cologne as a star.
"Bravo reports about stars and for many young people in Germany, Pope Benedict XVI is a star," said Bravo editor-in-chief Tom Junkersdorf.
During his visit, Pope Benedict will have meetings with leaders of other Christian denominations and representatives of Germany's large Muslim community.
He will also visit a city synagogue destroyed by the Nazis and rebuilt in the 1950s. Germany's 40 rabbis and Jewish leaders have been invited to meet the pope.
Ahead of his arrival, the pope said he hoped that the event "would give new impulses for the old continent".
His comments were echoed by the chairman of Germany's Bishops' conference, Cardinal Karl Lehmann, who told state television ZDF that he hoped that this year's youth day would have long term effects for both those attending the festival and members of the church.
"We cannot withdraw ourselves into the recesses," Lehmann said. "We must deliver a comprehensive public testimonial."
On the eve of the festival's opening, leading German gay and lesbian organizations said they wanted to use the Catholic World Youth Day to open a dialogue with the pope.
"Our goal is to ensure that people whose sexual orientation has been given by God are morally supported by the Catholic Church", said the groups, which included Germany's Lesbian and Gay Association (LSVD) and the Cologne Lesbian and Gay Day (KLuST)
Since being elected pope in April, Benedict has reaffirmed the conservative stance towards homosexuality taken by his predecessor, John Paul II.
About 800,000 people are expected to attend a mass on Sunday, the final day of the congress, which is to be presided over by Pope Benedict.
Apart from private homes and vast camping areas, sporting halls, schools and even factories in Cologne and surrounding cities and town have been turned into makeshift accommodation to house the young pilgrims.
World Youth Day organizers said the largest group of pilgrims attending the festival will be from Italy with 100,000 young Italian Catholics expected in Cologne.
Subject: German news