Chilly morning didn’t stop 1.2 million to attend WYD’s closing Mass

Cologne, Aug. 22, 2005 (CNA) - World Youth Day pilgrims awoke to gray skies and chilly 13-degree temperatures early Sunday morning in Marienfeld, the site of the 10 a.m. papal mass located about 40 kilometers southwest of Cologne, but  1.2 million  attended Pope Benedict’s first Mass outside of Italy. 

Organizers estimate that at least 700,000 pilgrims attended a candlelight prayer vigil with Pope Benedict the night before. They then slept in the open field under cold and damp conditions. But pilgrims were grateful that it hadn’t rained as forecasted. At 7 a.m. on Sunday, they were hoping that the weather would hold out until at least the end of the Mass.  

The spiritual presence of Pope John Paul II was more felt at the morning’s Mass. Certain parts of the Mass, featuring music from the four corners of the earth, recalled the message John Paul had issued a few months before his death to young people for WYD 2005. 

During the offertory, in addition to the bread and wine, the young people imitated the three Magi and offer gold, in the form of a chalice, frankincense, in the form of incense, and myrrh, in the form of a branch of myrrh from Israel to remind the congregation of the healing properties of the Eucharist. 

The symbolism of the three gifts is explained in John Paul’s message, in which he wrote: “My dear young people, you too offer to the Lord the gold of your lives, namely, your freedom to follow Him out of love, responding faithfully to His call; let the incense of your fervent prayer rise up to him, in praise of His glory; offer Him your myrrh, that is your affection of total gratitude to Him, true Man, who loved us to the point of dying as a criminal on Golgotha.” 

Participants in the offertory procession also included the “Sternsinger.” Since the 16th century, Christians in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands have worn garments similar to those worn by the Magi to go from door to door and spread the news of the birth of Christ. Each year in Germany, about 500,000 children and teens take on this role each year to collect donations for children in poorer countries and write the blessing, “May Christ bless this house” on the doorframes. 

The bishops and cardinals wore liturgical vestments that were specifically designed for WYD. The chasuble featured a bright yellow vertical line on the front and the back. When the cleric brings his hands together in prayer, a cross becomes visible. According to organizers, the symbol signifies that the priest subjects himself to the mystery of the Cross and, together with the community of the faithful, sets the Cross in motion so that it becomes the sign of light that we celebrate and follow as a Church. 

At the conclusion of the Mass, the pilgrims disassembled the WYD 2005 logo to symbolize the conclusion of the international gathering. Each of the symbols were given to young people from different countries to symbolize that the pilgrims are being sent back to their native countries to live their faith with conviction.