COLOGNE WYD OPENS:
"AT LAST THE DAY HAS ARRIVED!"
Aug. 16 (CWNews.com) - The
20th celebration of World Youth Day (WYD) should
demonstrate that faith has a role to play in modern
European society, Cardinal Joachim Meisner told a news
conference in Cologne on August 16.
Speaking at the same news
conference, on the opening day of WYD, Cardinal Karl
Lehmann said that the witness of the Catholic Church
must be "public, open, and official."
"At last the day has
arrived!" said Cardinal Meisner as he welcomed the
official WYD opening. He thanked the thousands of
volunteers who have helped in preparation for the
events, and the local and national government officials
who have given their cooperation.
Cardinal Meisner said
that the formal opening ceremonies on Tuesday evening
could be "the first chapter" in the realization of a
vision that Pope John Paul II had for the Church in
Germany. After the disasters of the 20th century, the
late Pontiff believed that Germany could give birth to a
new Christian impulse for Europe in the early 21st
century, the cardinal said. He added that the hundreds
of thousands of young people gathering in Cologne this
week will be determined to fulfill the ambition of their
beloved Pope John Paul.
On opening day of the
celebration, there were 405,000 young people registered
for WYD events: a record number. There are 9,805 priests
participating, as opposed to the 5,000 expected by
organizers. At least 750 bishops will be on hand,
including 60 cardinals. And 7,720 journalists have been
accredited for the events.
"The figures are
impressive, particularly for those who have been through
several WYDs," said Cardinal Lehmann. He recalled the
January 1995 celebration that brough over 4 million
people to Manila for the closing ceremonies. While
acknowledging that Pope John Paul II has been the
dominant figure in every previous World Youth Day, he
observed that Benedict XVI is also very popular,
particularly in his native Germany. The Pope's books are
on the best-seller list, he said, and one popular
magazine recently carried the headline: "Benedict XVI,
Cardinal Meisner told
reporters that the purpose of WYD is to "give young
people a taste for God." Rejecting the notion that the
Church exists solely for the purpose of providing moral
laws, the cardinal said that "morality is the reverse
side of the medal of faith." Morality and faith go
together, he said; in fact they are "two sides of the
same coin." But faith precedes morality, and the goal of
WYD is to revive the sense of faith, he said.