Prologue to World Youth Day begins in Germany
12 August 2005, COLOGNE - The prologue to World Youth Day began Thursday with 120,000 young people arriving in Germany ahead of the Catholic Church's huge international youth congress next week in Cologne.
12 August 2005
COLOGNE - The prologue to World Youth Day began Thursday with 120,000 young people arriving in Germany ahead of the Catholic Church's huge international youth congress next week in Cologne.
There was criticism in Germany of consular missions around the world that have denied visas to hundreds of young pilgrims on suspicion that they were using the World Youth Day to illegally immigrate.
By next Tuesday, when the main part of the event opens in Cologne, some 330,000 pilgrims aged 16-30 will have arrived in Germany for six days of prayer and teaching from a worldwide team of bishops and priests. A further 70,000 young Germans will also take part.
The congress culminates August 21 in a mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI.
Armin Laschet, minister of youth and integration in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, said he understood about 1,000 applicants had not been allowed into Germany. He demanded that Berlin relent.
Laschet said some visa applicants had not even been allowed into German embassies to explain that they were bona fide pilgrims.
A report this week in Manila said 300 Filipino applicants had been denied visas to visit Germany for the Catholic festival. In Berlin, the Foreign Office said 43 Manila pilgrims were granted visas Thursday so they could reach Germany next week.
The prologue, known as the 'days of encounter', takes place in dioceses all over Germany and includes a nationwide working bee on Friday. The social-welfare work would build "a new civilization of love and justice".
All those attending the days of encounter had been found accommodation in private homes, said Georg Austen, secretary of World Youth Day.
Catholic parishes all over Germany have voiced disappointment that barely a third of the World Youth Day visitors signed up to attend the prologue, and plans laid months ago to fill church halls with bedding had to be scratched.
Rev. Austen said it was nevertheless a credit to German Catholics that hospitality had been offered on a scale to accommodate 250,000. The motto for the encounters was "guests are a blessing", which derives from an African proverb, he added.
Subject: German news