World Youth Day - News



VATICAN ( -- As Rome braced for the arrival of the hundreds of thousands of young people expected to participate in next week's World Youth Day celebration, the Vatican gave the media a final rundown on preparations for the events. 

At an August 11 press conference, Cardinal James Francis Stafford, the president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, and Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Pope's vicar for Rome, briefed reporters on the organization of World Youth Day activities.

Although the influx of young people is not expected to begin until August 14, the prelates revealed, some 25,000 volunteers are already at their stations, ready to greet the arrivals. On Saturday, August 12, these volunteers will themselves be officially greeted in St. Peter's Square, and Cardinal Ruini will preside at a Mass for them there; another group of 5,000 volunteers will travel to Castelgandalfo, the Pope's summer residence, where the Pontiff will receive them.

These volunteers-- predominantly Italian, although 40 different countries are represented among them-- will take charge of the logistical tasks involved in handling the enormous crowds that are anticipated: greeting the young pilgrims, giving directions, and coordinating transportation. Some volunteers have been assigned to special duties such as escorting handicapped guests, journalists, and ecclesiastical dignitaries. Still others will act as ushers for the large ceremonies during the week. 

Msgr. Cesare Nosiglia, the president of the Italian committee for World Youth day, told reporters that he expects 500,000 young people to arrive by August 15, and another 700,000 later in the week, so that the crowd will swell to 1.2 million for the climactic celebrations of August 19 and 20. 

At least 160 countries will send representatives to World Youth Day. Cardinal Stafford said that aside from Italy, the countries sending the largest delegations will be France (with 60,000 pilgrims), Poland (40,000), Spain (30,000), and the United States (30,000). 

As these pilgrims begin arriving in force on August 14, they will be welcomed to Rome and lodged in homes, schools, parishes, public buildings, and hotels in the Eternal City and surrounding areas. The first major events of World Youth Day will be on August 15, the feast of the Assumption, when the young pilgrims will celebrate Mass in the parishes where they are staying. 

Later in the day, they will be officially welcomed to Rome; divided into two separate groups, they willgo either to St. Peter's Square or to the mall  outside the basilica of St. John Lateran. Pope John Paul II will visit both sites to greet them. 

August 16, 17, and 18 will be devoted to a series of catechetical talks, with 323 bishops scheduled to address the young people. Also, the pilgrims-- organized in smaller groups and following a tight schedule-- will make their own Jubilee pilgrimages, entering St. Peter's basilica through the Holy Door.

The centerpiece of the World Youth Day observance will be a day-long session of prayer, music, and witness, at which all 1.2 million pilgrims will participate. That event will unfold at Tor Vergata, on the outskirts of Rome, where an outdoor site has been carefully prepared. Most of the young pilgrims will camp there on Saturday night, before the Mass on Sunday morning, celebrated by the Holy Father and broadcast across the world, which will be final event of World Youth Day.


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