Do-it-yourself religion 'cannot ultimately help us,' pope tells youth; 'Preserve communion with the pope and the bishops,' Benedict says
Correspondent's Notebook #4:
WYD 'rehabilitates' Joseph Ratzinger; Pope and teacher; Meeting with seminarians; Diversity among youth; WYD liturgical styles; Some ripples of dissent
By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Pope urges more than a million youths to discover power of faith (Catholic New Service)
Pope Calls for Return to Christian Roots (AP)
Young Pilgrims Open to New Pope (AP)
The text of Benedict's Sunday Mass homily
Report #4:By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
Do-it-yourself religion 'cannot ultimately help us,' pope tells youth
'Preserve communion with the pope and the bishops,' Benedict says
One day before he was elected pope on April 19, then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger defined the core challenge facing the Catholic church as a "dictatorship of relativism" in the West, against which the church must reassert objective truth, which finds its focal point in the person of Jesus Christ.
The struggle against the "dictatorship of relativism" is expected by many to be the cornerstone of Benedict's pontificate.
Oddly enough, however, Benedict XVI did not touch much on this theme over the first three days of his debut on the international stage. On Sunday, however, it took center stage.
In his homily at the Mass concluding World Youth Day, Benedict challenged the crowd of one million gathered on the Marienfeld plain outside Cologne to submit to God, not as a denial of their freedom, but as an embrace of a truth that saves.
"Freedom is not simply about enjoying life in total autonomy, but rather about living by the measure of truth and goodness, so that we ourselves can become true and good," he said.
He took square aim at what is sometimes called "cafeteria Catholicism" -- the tendency of believers to pick and choose among church teachings, constructing their own system.
"Religion constructed on a 'do-it-yourself' basis cannot ultimately help us," he said.
Yet the pope did not cite specific instances of dissent, such as the church's teachings on birth control or homosexuality, leaving his listeners to draw their own conclusions.
Benedict came at the theme of coherence again in an afternoon meeting with the German bishops.
"Young people … are not looking for a church which panders to youth but one which is truly young in spirit; a church completely open to Christ, the new Man," he said.
"There can be no false compromise, no watering down of the Gospel."
The large crowd at Marienfeld responded enthusiastically to Benedict, repeatedly breaking into applause and chanting Bene-detto!
Yet there was no attempt during this trip to ape the populist charisma of John Paul II. Benedict only departed once from his prepared scripts over the four days, explaining to the crowd on Sunday morning that he would have liked to take an extensive swing through the crowd in the Popemobile, but logistical difficulties made that impossible.
Many in the vast crowd had spent Saturday night sleeping outside in unseasonably chilly weather. Organizers said that 600 young pilgrims turned up at the crack of dawn on Saturday in order to get choice places, and Marienfeld had to be opened three hours ahead of schedule to accommodate them.
His Sunday homily turned on a core principle in Benedict's thought -- that following the laws of God and of the church is not a restriction on one's freedom, but the gateway to true liberation.
"Recognition of God as our true measure, supplying the norm that we choose to follow," the pope said, is the true significance of submission.
"This gesture is necessary, even if initially our yearning for freedom makes us inclined to resist it."
Opening one's self to Christ, the pope said, means also opening to the church.
"This is why love for sacred scripture is so important," he said, "and in consequence, it is important to know the faith of the church which opens up for us the meaning of scripture."
Noting that there is a growing religious hunger in many parts of the world, Benedict said he has "no wish to discredit all the manifestations of this phenomenon."
At the same time, however, the endorsement came with a warning.
"If it is pushed too far, religion becomes almost a consumer product. People choose what they like, and some are even able to make a profit from it," he said.
Returning to a theme he unfolded at length Saturday night, Benedict told the youth that while their desire to change the world is fully legitimate, any attempt to do so that forgets God will ultimately end in frustration.
One finds in the Eucharist, the pope said, "the central act of transformation that alone can truly renew the world: Violence is transformed into love and death into life."
In an eloquent turn of phrase, he spoke of the Eucharist as triggering a chain reaction of transformations.
"This is like inducing nuclear fission in the very heart of being -- the victory of love over hatred, the victory of love over death," he said. "Only this intimate explosion of good conquering evil can then trigger off the series of transformations that little by little will change the world."
Pope Benedict urged the young pilgrims "to preserve communion with the pope and the bishops."
In an almost paternal tone, the pope urged the gathered youth to make time for Mass on Sunday.
"Sometimes, our initial impression is that having to include time for Mass on a Sunday is rather inconvenient," he said. "But if you make the effort, you will realize that this is what gives a proper focus to your free time."
On the whole, organizers seemed to feel that the German pope's four-day return to his homeland was triumphant.
"It was marvelous," Matthias Kopp, the spokesperson for World Youth Day in Cologne, told NCR Aug. 21 after the pope's concluding Mass. Kopp said that plans for the Mass at Marienfeld had been based on projections of 800,000 people, and in the event around 1 million came.
"It shows that the church in Germany, which can sometimes seem a bit old, also has a young face."
Speaking on background to NCR Aug. 20, a senior official on the planning team said part of what they hoped to accomplish in Cologne was to "rehabilitate" Joseph Ratzinger in the court of German public opinion, where he has sometimes been seen as a foreboding figure. Images of the pope smiling and waving during his Thursday boat ride on the Rhine, reaching out to Jews and Muslims, and basking in the enthusiasm of up to a million young people Sunday morning, drew wide play in the German media.
A German bishop has already said that Benedict intends to make another trip to Germany in 2006, to visit his home in the Bavarian city of Regensburg, where his older brother Georg resides. Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller of Regensburg made the announcement Aug. 9.
As expected, Benedict XVI announced on Sunday that the next World Youth Day will take place in Sydney, Australia, in 2008. Though he did not give the dates, they are now set for July 15-20, following the normal Tuesday through Sunday format of previous World Youth Day celebrations.
Pope Benedict did not give a clear indication today of whether he intends to be present for the Sydney event. Though he seemed energetic and refreshed this week, in 2008 he will be 81 years old, raising questions about whether his health will permit the trip. Further, it's not yet clear whether as a matter of policy he believes the physical presence of the pope is required.
Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, however, in an interview with NCR on Aug. 20, called the pope's participation "almost essential" to the success of the event.
Given the distance and costs involved with travel to Australia, local turnout looms as especially critical for the Sydney event. On that score, Cologne may not be the best model; of the 415,178 young people registered for the events during the week, only 83,929 were German.
Organizers announced on Sunday that as a sign of solidarity with the poor, the Mass collection would be distributed to youth in the Holy Land and victims of the Asian tsunami.
August 21, 2005, National Catholic Reporter
Correspondent's Notebook #4:By JOHN L. ALLEN JR.
WYD 'rehabilitates' Joseph Ratzinger; Pope and teacher; Meeting with seminarians; Diversity among youth; WYD liturgical styles; Some ripples of dissent
In talking on background to German organizers of the Cologne World Youth Day, it's clear that there was a subsidiary agenda here, beyond confirming hundreds of thousands of young people in their Catholic faith, or staging important encounters between the pope and Jews or Muslims -- "rehabilitating," so to speak, Joseph Ratzinger in the court of German public opinion.
For better or worse, the German hierarchy is aware that in some circles in Germany, including some within the German Catholic church, Ratzinger has long loomed as a sort of Darth Vader figure. He has been variously seen as stern, aloof, authoritarian and pessimistic. It doesn't help that Ratzinger has been in Rome for almost 24 years, so that people in his homeland know him largely through newspaper headlines and TV sound-bites.
What the organizers wanted to do was to present to the German public Joseph Ratzinger the private man -- gracious, humble, kind and affectionate. To a great extent, they seemed to have succeeded. Images of Benedict XVI, smiling and waving, radiating hope and optimism, reaching out to Protestants and followers of other religions, have appeared on the front page of countless German papers, and the same images have led evening newscasts.
None of this means, of course, that Benedict XVI has abandoned the firm convictions that have made him something of a polarizing figure.
This came across especially clearly in his Sunday address to the German bishops, where, after listing several points of pride in German Catholicism, Benedict moved on to address its defects.
"On the face of this [German] church there are also wrinkles, shadows that obscure her splendor," the pope said. "Secularism and dechristianization continue to advance. The influence of Catholic ethics and morals is in constant decline. Many people abandon the church or, if they remain, they accept only a part of Catholic teaching. The religious situation in the East is particularly worrying, since the majority of the population is unbaptized and has no contact with the church," the pope said.
Germany today, Benedict summed up, is once again "mission territory."
Against this backdrop, the pope called for German Catholics to be "consistent, united and courageous."
"There can be no false compromise, no watering down of the gospel," he said.
Yet for the most part, Benedict came across as anything but a scold. He reached his rhetorical peak in his homily at the concluding Sunday Mass, offering an image of the Eucharist as "inducing nuclear fission into the very heart of being -- the victory of love over hatred, the victory of love over death."
Hearing such words from Benedict XVI, and watching the large and enthusiastic crowds respond to him, no doubt many Germans have been given some food for thought about a man they thought they knew.
Of course, the generally positive coverage will not last long after the papal plane takes off. The next time Pope Benedict censures a theologian or cracks down on a pastoral practice, the old stereotypes will resurface. But at least in the short term, the organizers here seem to feel they've succeeded in knocking down some walls of skepticism and hostility -- and if so, that by itself would represent no small accomplishment.
* * *
One way in which Benedict XVI showed a different side of himself while in Germany was a frank acknowledgement that, despite his profound faith in the Catholic church as the privileged place to meet Christ, it is also deeply human and imperfect.
"There is much that could be criticized in the church," he told the youth during the Saturday evening vigil.
"We know this and the Lord himself told us so: it is a net with good fish and bad fish, a field with wheat and darnel," he said. "Pope John Paul II, as well as revealing the true face of the church in the many saints that he canonized, also asked pardon for the wrong that was done in the course of history through the words and deeds of members of the church. In this way he showed us our own true image and urged us to take our place, with all our faults and weaknesses, in the procession of the saints that began with the Magi from the East."
"It is actually consoling to realize that there is darnel in the church. In this way, despite all our defects, we can still hope to be counted among the disciples of Jesus, who came to call sinners," he said.
Andrea Riccardi, founder of the Sant'Egidio Community, told me he especially liked this image.
"This illustrates the tolerance of God, which is always much greater than the tolerance of human beings," Riccardi said.
* * *
Given how composed and energetic Benedict XVI has seemed during these four days, it's easy to forget that he is a 78-year-old man, for whom any sort of travel, let alone the high-energy World Youth Day, has to be enormously taxing.
As one indication of the way organizers are trying to protect the pope's stamina, John Paul II's first trip to Germany was also a four-day affair, November 15-19, 1980. Over that course of time, he gave a total of 29 speeches; Benedict XVI, by way of contrast, gave 12. Obviously, a man of 78 cannot keep up the same pace that someone who, at that stage, was a mere 60 could maintain.
Further, despite the fact that he invoked John Paul II in virtually every address in Cologne, it's clear that Benedict feels no pressure to be a clone of John Paul II. Hence, he does not intend to mimic his predecessor's profile as a human dynamo.
One other point, which may or may not be indicative of something. When Benedict XVI announced Sydney, Australia, as the site of the next World Youth Day in 2008, he did not add a characteristic John Paul II touch: Arrivederci a Sydney! ("See you at Sydney!") It may simply be another example of Benedict XVI doing things his own way, but it may also signal that the pope is not yet committed to making the trip -- or simply an honest recognition that no one at this stage knows whether, at 81, he'll be capable of doing so.
* * *
Despite the fact that professional pedagogues spend a lot of time worrying about whether material is "age-appropriate" or "relevant," somewhere along the line most people have had a teacher who stands out precisely because she or he refused to assume that young people are incapable of adult thought. They acted as if young people ought to be perfectly equipped to read Flaubert, or to do advanced calculus, or to master organic chemistry, and that faith often pushed their students beyond mediocrity.
These may not, by and large, be the teachers upon whom girls develop crushes, or that guys want to hang around with after school. They may not "bring down the house" at pep rallies or talent shows. But they generate respect, and in the end, deep affection, even if it's a more subdued and thoughtful sort of emotion. Such teachers pay young people the compliment of not patronizing them.
After the 20th World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany, Pope Benedict XVI seems to be emerging as that kind of pope.
In a world of rapid-fire, MTV-style cutaways in television programs and movies, driven by the assumption that young people have limited attention spans and thus little capacity for following a line of thought, Pope Benedict made no apologies Sunday morning for veering into a lengthy exegesis of the Greek word proskynesis and the Latin adoratio. (He later tossed in a Hebrew term, beracha, to boot). He used words such as "positivism" and "transmute" without bothering to explain them, as if all one million young people from 197 countries standing in the Marienfeld plain Sunday morning ought to have scored 700 or better on the SAT verbal.
It's quite likely that some portions of his Sunday morning homily will have sailed over the heads of part of his audience, especially since the majority heard most of it through translation, but that's not quite the point. Many will come away inspired because this man, whom most of the World Youth Day participants regard as brilliant and holy, didn't water his thinking down. He didn't act as if he was saving his best stuff for someone else -- he assumed these young people were capable of meaty content.
It was already clear that Benedict XVI is not a pep rally kind of pope, and that was obvious in Cologne. During the opening prayer of the Saturday night vigil, when the crowd began to cheer as he read an opening prayer, he smiled and then gestured that he wanted them to quiet down. He never ad-libbed, never broke into song, never put on a funny hat. There was never the kind of spontaneous, "John Paul II loves you too!" kind of outburst that brought the house down in previous World Youth Days.
Benedict smiled, waved, and repeatedly thanked the youth for coming. The crowds seemed to genuinely like him, even if they tended to react to him like a respected teacher rather than a surrogate father, or grandfather, which is the relationship many Catholic youth felt to John Paul II.
What Benedict offered in his three major addresses -- the opening greeting on Thursday afternoon delivered from a boat on the Rhine, and the two homilies Saturday night and Sunday morning -- was instead some 35,000 words of teaching, moral exhortation and spiritual challenge.
Over the long run, it's an open question whether that teaching will transform the lives of the youth who came to Cologne, or whether it will reawaken the Christian roots of Europe, just as one can ask whether the charisma and moral heroism of John Paul II did so.
But, with at least some of the roughly one million young people in attendance at the concluding Mass, Benedict probably at least got them thinking.
* * *
When Benedict XVI decided to add a meeting with seminarians on Friday afternoon, it raised the eyebrows of some longtime organizers of World Youth Days. Although there are priests, brothers, deacons and religious women around the world who say that the first inklings of a vocation came to them at World Youth Day, organizers have always been concerned about overplaying this dimension of the event.
The core purpose of World Youth Day, they say, is to evangelize typical, meat-and-potatoes Catholic youth, not to be a "farm team" for future vocations to the priesthood and religious life. What they don't want, they say, is for young people to react to the idea of going to World Youth Day by saying, "I'm not really interested in being a priest or nun, so it's not for me."
Yet Benedict XVI has shown no such ambivalence.
"I am very pleased to have this opportunity to be with you. I had asked that the program of these days in Cologne should include a special meeting with young seminarians, so that the vocational dimension which is always a part of World Youth Day would be even more clearly and strongly evident," he said.
He was even clearer in his address to the German bishops.
He called World Youth Day "a laboratory of vocations, because in the course of these days the Lord will not have failed to make his call heard in the hearts of many young people."
Benedict linked this dimension of the event to the decline in numbers of priests, especially in Germany.
"In the light of the shortage of priests and religious, which is reaching dramatic proportions here in Germany, I encourage you, dear brothers, to promote the pastoral care of vocations with renewed vigor, in order to reach parishes, educational centers and families," he said.
There seems little doubt, therefore, that on Benedict XVI's watch, the "recruiting" element of future World Youth Days will be increasingly in the foreground.
* * *
One of the charming things about World Youth Day is that it brings together youth not merely from a variety of cultures and linguistic groups, but from a wide spectrum of "religiosity" as well.
Consider, for example, these contrasting examples of reactions to a very basic question I asked a number of pilgrims throughout the four days I was here: What do they think of the new pope?
"He's old," said Tim Loehmann, 16, from Cleveland, Ohio. Loehmann is a junior at Benedictine High School.
I pressed for more.
"I think he's a good guy. I think he was the right choice," Loehmann said. "The priests told us they would like to see him get elected. They thought he was a good choice, so I back that."
Does Loehmann know why the priests he referred to wanted this man to be elected pope?
"Yeah, but I don't remember," he said.
Contrast that with this response from Sean Melancon, 19, of Las Vegas, Nevada.
"I love the pope. Just being the pope, there's something that makes you love him. But this pope is incredible. Firstly, he's very orthodox. He's a theologian. He's written works that are so powerful. Also, I saw him in Rome while we were there for one of the Wednesday audiences, and he spoke to everyone in their own language. It was so amazing, so incredible."
"He's very humble," Melancon said.
"Pope John Paul II asked that whoever was elected pope not refuse it. I think that says something … the people who become pope, like Benedict XVI, are not looking for self-glory. It's about the church. They're the servants of the servants. I think that's what draws the attention of so many youth. They realize that he's here for us."
For a kind of via media, here's the view of Kelsey McDougall, 17, from Bitteroot Valley, Montana. I asked her the same question: What are her impressions of the pope?
"I thought, well, he's … I don't know what to think of him, really," she said. "He's the pope, the leader of our church. It's kind of nice to see him, of course at a distance. With Pope John Paul II, I never really saw him in real life, I always saw him on TV. Being here in Germany and being a witness to people from all over the world, including the pope, it's remarkable."
This in a nutshell captures the pastoral challenge facing the planners of World Youth Day, up to and including the pope -- how to "pitch" the event in such a way that it holds the interest of well-informed, motivated Catholics such as Melancon, without leaving more novice participants such as Loehmann behind.
Another thing that becomes clear in talking to American youth is that, at least for them, the international dimension of World Youth Day is terribly important. For many American youth, sometimes monolingual and unaccustomed to global travel, this is their first living encounter with the idea of Roman Catholicism as a global family of faith.
"I guess it's the witnessing in faith of how much faith the youth have," McDougall said. "To me, it's overpowering. It really hits me emotionally, because I thank God every day for how strong our faith is in the Catholic church, and how many people are pumped up about spiritual concerns."
"I think personally World Youth Day is more about the church and gathering together with a bunch of people," McDougall said. "Benedict to me is kind of a symbol that everybody can connect together with the same idea."
Melancon also stressed the international dimension.
"As soon as I heard about World Youth Day, I wanted to be here," he said. "We had planned a trip with my family to Europe, and when we found out that World Youth Day was going to be this year, we just had to do it. It's being able to experience all this powerful faith from people all around the world. It's so obvious that the Catholic church is a world church. It's not just confined to one country … it transcends countries and backgrounds, rich and poor … it's all-encompassing."
* * *
This may be a bit of insider baseball, but attentive Vatican-watchers were waiting for the papal liturgies at World Youth Day to see if the somewhat Broadway-esque elements familiar from past editions, associated with Archbishop Piero Marini, the longtime liturgist of John Paul II, would be scrubbed. Given the passion of Benedict XVI for reverent, sober liturgies whose focus is on God rather than the human participants, some expected a more toned-down, "classical" style.
Admittedly, the Saturday night vigil was not a Mass, but it nevertheless featured vespers and a Eucharistic devotional service. It was striking, therefore, that many characteristic Marini touches were still there -- suggesting that at least on this score, and at least for now, Benedict XVI has opted for a philosophy of, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
As Pope Benedict snaked around the vast Marienfeld plain in his popemobile, for example, a Christian band on stage belted out a series of upbeat pop numbers. In a perfect symbol of blending of pop culture and Christian faith, the band's guitarist sported a small cross in the neck of his guitar.
Benedict XVI later intoned the opening collect, or prayer, in a classic chant, only to be followed by a lengthy and rousing sing-along to the pop anthem of World Youth Day: "Jesus Christ, you are my life, alleluia!"
Just before an Italian young man and a German young woman offered their personal testimonies of faith, a Indian dance group performed in front of the pope. Later, during the presentation of gifts, a group of Africans performed a traditional dance down the central aisle in front of the altar mound, accompanied by African drumming.
To top it all off, in the middle of the service an Argentinean juggler named Paul Ponce did a number with hats, followed by another juggler who tossed flaming torches into the air as the crowd roared.
When he finished, Benedict XVI actually stood and applauded.
The same touches appeared Sunday during the Mass. Young men pounded drums wearing Indian headdresses, and pop bands belted out snappy melodies. At one stage, Incans in native costumes played their pipes.
The Gloria was accompanied by South American zamponas and charangos, followed by an Indian sitar, African drums, and an Australian didgeridoo.
It's too early to know what any of this means -- it could simply be a patient pope biding his time. But it's nevertheless one small indication that the sweeping "restoration" some expected from Benedict XVI, especially on liturgical matters, may not be forthcoming in quite the way some had imagined.
* * *
This being Germany, the birthplace of the Protestant Reformation and home to the most successful liberal Catholic movement in recent experience, called "We Are church," a papal trip would not be complete without some ripples of dissent.
Those ripples came in the form of a series of events coordinated by a group of roughly 50 young Catholics, representing We Are Church and other progressive Catholic groups, including Catholics for a Free Choice, a pro-choice advocacy group that represents something of a bête noir for the American bishops. Their effort had as its slogan "WYD4All," or "World Youth Day for All." Of the 50 members in the group, 45 came from Europe, with five from the United States and Latin America. One person from Ghana was scheduled to come but could not get a visa.
Another source of the support for the effort came from the gay community in Cologne, which is more or less the San Francisco of Germany -- i.e., the country's gay capital. In July, a million people gathered in the city for a gay pride festival.
WYD4All's chief spokesperson, Tobias Raschke, 26, told me that each of the sponsoring groups contributed in its own way, but much of the money came from Catholics for a Free Choice.
Over the course of the week in Cologne, the 50 participants handed out some 40,000-50,000 flyers backing a campaign called "Condoms for Life," intended to make the argument that by opposing the use of condoms, the Catholic church is actually contributing to the spread of HIV/AIDS. They also put up "Condoms for Life" ads in Cologne subways.
The group also sponsored an information center located in an Old Catholic parish in Cologne, as well as a series of press conferences and roundtable discussions on themes such as birth control, women priests, peacemaking, ecumenism and homosexuality.
On Saturday night, I asked Raschke if he felt their efforts had been successful.
"We brought attention to the crisis of HIV/AIDS, and the impact of the bishops' ban on condoms," Raschke told me. "We want to promote a culture of life, as opposed to the pope and the bishops. There are14,000 people infected with HIV every day, which is five per minute. In fact, the bishops are promoting a culture of death," he said.
"We also brought the gay community into the conversation, which is such an integral part of this city. They should be welcomed by the church."
Raschke said the young liberals had only a few negative experiences of being confronted by ardent pro-lifers in the streets of the city.
"We explained that all we want is to help people make informed, caring and responsible choices," he said.
Raschke said that over the course of the week, perhaps 1,000 World Youth Day participants stopped by their center -- which, Raschke argued, was a good result given that their location was somewhat off the beaten track, and that they received no mention in official World Youth Day materials.
In the end, though, does Raschke really believe that these efforts will force the church to change?
"I'm 26," he said. "The pope is 78. Time is on my side."
Moreover, he argued, the reality of the HIV/AIDS crisis will eventually force the church to revise at least its teaching on condoms. Among other pressure points, Raschke predicted that there will be rising criticism in the United Nations and the European Union of the policies of both the Vatican and the Bush administration on matters of sexual morality.
At the same time, Raschke conceded that it is increasingly difficult to motivate young Catholics to join a church reform movement.
"We speak for the majority of Catholics, at least in most countries of the world," Raschke said. "In Germany, we represent the views of 75 to 80 percent of Catholics. But the church is not changing fast enough, or can't change fast enough, and young people lose interest."
In that light, Raschke said that if a Catholic reform movement wants to attract youth, it should focus less on internal ecclesiastical struggles and more on debates in the secular political realm -- globalization, war and peace, and so on.
"The idea should be to bring a Catholic voice, as opposed to the voice of the hierarchy, to bear on these issues," he said.
* * *
The last World Youth Day took place in Toronto in 2002, against the backdrop of the most white-hot period of the American sexual abuse crisis.
Appearing before a vast crowd of American youth, John Paul II said that "the harm done by some priests and religious to the young and vulnerable fills us all with a deep sense of sadness and shame."
Three years after the fact, what did the American Catholic youth think about the fallout from the crisis?
Many told me the same thing they had said in Toronto -- that in an odd way, the experience had bolstered their commitment to the church.
"It made us stronger in the faith," said Deedee Gonzales, 18, from Port Angeles, Washington. "When things are going bad, you have to think more about why you're Catholic, what it all means.
"We haven't forgotten about it," said Matthew Dubeau, 24, also of Port Angeles. "But it actually made me defend the church, which meant that I had to do more thinking and praying."
Neither of these young American Catholics, nor others with whom I spoke here, had any sympathy for priests who committed sexual abuse or bishops who allowed it to happen. But they said that hearing the church attacked in the media, in school, and among their friends, had put them in a position of explaining their commitment to it in a way they had never previously been pressed to do. That, they said, was perhaps the silver lining in the experience.
* * *
The first unscripted moment for Benedict XVI on this trip came at the opening of the Sunday Mass, after Cardinal Joachim Meisner of Cologne welcomed him to the Mass site. Benedict, who had not take the customary long and winding route through the crowd in the popemobile, took the microphone.
"I would have liked to take the popemobile through the field in order to greet everybody, in order to be close to everybody," he said. "But because of some difficulties this was not possible. But I bless you all, God loves you all."
The pope went to talk about "the secret of His presence and communion" in the Eucharist. He then shifted to introducing the mea culpa.
"We all know we are imperfect, we have no right to the Lord," he said. "It's right to contemplate our sins, to ask Him to take away everything that separates us from the Lord, so we are prepared to receive the Holy Eucharist."
* * *
It's always dangerous to push national stereotypes too far, but one could certainly spot glimpses of the legendary Teutonic passion for order during the Cologne World Youth Day.
My favorite example: The press center was located inside the KolnMesse, a large conference facility, in hall number five. To reach it from the hotel where the Vatican press corps stayed, one had to walk through an underground tunnel, which ended just outside an entrance to the hall. Instead of allowing journalists to enter there, however, the security officers had set up a barrier and insisted that reporters walk around to another entrance. One presumes that during the week, the idea was to prevent throngs of young pilgrims from congregating in the outside area and thus clogging access for the press.
By Sunday morning, however, all the youth were at the Mass at Marienfeld, and the KolnMesse was largely deserted. In fact, many journalists were at the Mass site too, leaving behind only a few of us who had to do radio or TV.
Yet there was the security guard, still directing reporters away from the barrier. I tried pointing out to him that this system was developed in order to protect our access to the hall, but it had now outlived its usefulness.
"No one has told me to stop," he said.
August 21, 2005, National Catholic Reporter
Pope urges more than a million youths to discover power of faithBy John Thavis
Catholic News Service
COLOGNE, Germany (CNS) -- In back-to-back encounters with more than a million young people from around the world, Pope Benedict XVI urged them to discover the transforming power of the faith and join the "true revolution" of personal holiness.
At a World Youth Day vigil Aug. 20 and a closing Mass the next day, the pope preached about the inspiration of the saints and the mystery of the Eucharist, encouraging the youths to change themselves if they want to change the world.
"Only from the saints, only from God does true revolution come," he told a vast candlelit crowd spread across a field outside Cologne.
The pope was presiding for the first time over World Youth Day, and he did so in a solemn and dignified style. At the vigil, he sat quietly as he watched slow liturgical dancing and listened to Scripture readings.
Unlike similar megameetings with Pope John Paul II, there was no papal bantering with the crowd or light-hearted silliness. At the end of the long evening, dressed in a golden cope, Pope Benedict led the crowd in adoration of the Eucharist.
In his talk, he retold the simple story of the Wise Men who found Jesus in a manger, thus discovering an unworldly kind of power.
The pope's emphasis on the saints -- old ones like St. Francis of Assisi and more recent figures of holiness like Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta -- resonated with many in his young audience.
"We agree with him," said 16-year-old Mackenzie Gilpin, who recently began attending an "all saints club" at her parish in Milford, Pa. She punctuated her statement with a whoop that caused nearby pilgrims to stir in their sleeping bags.
"What he said was just so beautiful. The saints were normal people just like us," Gilpin said. She looked a little bleary-eyed after a night on the plain of Marienfeld, or "Mary's Field," where she was camped beneath an American flag.
Her friend, 15-year-old Meg Palermo, said the pope had impressed her with his traditional approach.
"I like that a lot. A lot of things in the world are corrupted, and it's nice to have a strong pope who will stay (true) to the church's traditions. I think he's going to be a great pope," she said.
The young people at Marienfeld had spent a week visiting German parishes, listening to catechetical talks, attending musical and theatrical performances and joining in prayers and processions through the streets of Cologne.
They all came together for the first time at the evening vigil, where the pope's appearance in his popemobile set off cheers and camera flashes.
His first act was to bless a huge bronze bell dedicated to the memory of Pope John Paul, who founded World Youth Day. As the bell tolled deeply, many in the crowd broke into chants of "Giovanni Paolo" -- John Paul's name in Italian.
The vigil was heavier on prayer and lighter on entertainment than previous such events. Spiritual dances by young women from India and Ghana alternated with brief testimonials and the singing of hymns.
At one point, an Argentine artist juggled straw hats and flaming torches to symbolize prayer as a dialogue between God and man. The pope, his eyebrows raised slightly, looked bemused.
As a clarinet played a haunting melody, the pope accepted a candle lit from fire that came from Bethlehem, West Bank, and thousands of smaller candles lit the darkness as far as the eye could see.
The pope said the saints represent "the shining path which God himself has traced throughout history." They are the world's true reformers and have taught Christians that love, not ideologies, will save the world, he said.
The pope also cautioned young people to avoid constructing a "private God" or a "private Jesus," but to trust the church as the place where believers come together in a real communion.
"There is much that could be criticized in the church," but it remains the "great family of God" that unites all peoples and cultures, he said.
As the pope left the area for the evening, young people joined in singing a hymn of the ecumenical Taize community, "Stay With Me." The official program ended at that point, but youths talked, prayed and sang in small groups through much of the night.
At a closing Mass the next morning, the pope, dressed in gold vestments, was joined by more than 900 bishops, 9,000 priests and a much smaller number of male and female altar servers.
The sleep-deprived crowd of young people came to life as the popemobile appeared through a light fog, escorted by a heavy security contingent. Youths in feathered headdresses played congas in welcome.
In a sermon delivered alternately in five languages, the pope explained two essential concepts of the faith: the Eucharist and mission.
At the Last Supper, he said, Christ transformed the bread and wine into his body and blood, anticipating his own death and transforming it into an action of love. It was destined to set in motion a series of changes that will ultimately transform the world, he said.
To bring it home to his young audience, he compared this series of transformations to nuclear fission, calling it an "intimate explosion of good conquering evil."
The pope said that with so much at stake, attending Sunday Mass becomes very important for young people -- even if it may seem inconvenient.
"Let us pledge ourselves to do this -- it is worth the effort," he said.
His words may have carried special significance in his native Germany, where only about 15 percent of Catholics are estimated to attend Mass regularly.
The pope then spoke about the duty of Christians to evangelize, spreading the joy of their own encounter with Jesus. In contemporary society, he said, this missionary impetus has led to a "new explosion of religion" but also brought a tendency to market Christianity.
"If it is pushed too far, religion becomes almost a consumer product. People choose what they like, and some are even able to make a profit from it. But religion constructed on a do-it-yourself basis cannot ultimately help us," he said.
The pope said true Christians demonstrate their faith in their daily lives. The Eucharist, for example, should inspire people to share, to look after the elderly and not to pass by people who are suffering, he said.
Neither of the pope's talks, however, explored specific forms of contemporary injustice, poverty or oppression. The young people, many of whom listened on radios to running translations of the papal talks, said they were more interested in his words about the faith.
"It was more religious than political. I think that's fine because that's what we really came for. He made a very good impression," said Gabriela Delgado, a 24-year-old California Catholic.
Many at the Mass site huddled in blankets in the cool morning air, relighting votive candles from the night before and rolling up sleeping mats and tents. A group of Nigerians said they kept warm overnight by wearing sweaters and blankets given them by their host families in Germany.
About 50 Vietnamese Catholics had trouble understanding the radio translations, but said they were thrilled to see the pope anyway.
"He is like a king in the Catholic kingdom. We all love him. We feel ... he represents someone who is so near to God," said Cao Hong Phuc of Ho Chi Minh City.
At the end of the Mass the pope prayed the Angelus in Latin and spoke a few sentences of greeting in nine languages, including Swahili and Tagalog.
"May the light of Christ, which you have followed on your way to Cologne, shine ever more brightly and strongly in your lives," he said in English.
The pope also announced that, as expected, the next World Youth Day will take place in Sydney, Australia, in 2008. Cardinal George Pell of Sydney told Catholic News Service he was delighted with the news and said the pope has told him he would like to come to Australia for the event "if providence permits."
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Contributing to this story was Michael Lawton.
Pope Calls for Return to Christian RootsAug 22, 2:08 AM (ET)
By MELISSA EDDY
COLOGNE, Germany (AP) - Pope Benedict XVI urged Europe to rediscover its Christian tradition and warned against rising secularism as he concluded his first foreign trip with an open-air Mass for a million people in his native Germany.
The four-day trip underlined interfaith relations - also a key theme of John Paul II's papacy. Benedict visited a synagogue in which he won applause for his warning about rising anti-Semitism, and he had a frank talk with Muslims about terrorism.
The 78-year-old pope on Sunday called on the pilgrims attending the World Youth Day Festival in Cologne to wisely use the freedom God gave them.
"Freedom is not simply about enjoying life in total autonomy, but rather about living by the measure of truth and goodness so that we ourselves can become true and good," he told the crowd.
The throngs from almost 200 countries had been invited to the festival by a different pope, the charismatic John Paul, before his death April 2.
But they embraced his more subdued successor with the same huge turnout, shouts and applause on his first foreign trip as pope.
"Beeen-e-DET-to, Beeen-e-DET-to," they chanted, using the Italian version of his name. Some 800,000 of them spent the night in the Marienfeld, or Mary's Field, outside Cologne, sleeping on the ground so they could attend Sunday's mass.
Benedict returned to Rome Sunday night.
The pope used his trip to make it clear that he intends to continue key parts of John Paul's heritage. In particular, he held two important interfaith meetings with Muslims and Jews. He became only the second pope in history to visit a synagogue when he spoke to Cologne's Jewish community, winning a standing ovation for his warning of rising anti-Semitism.
He made blunter statements during a meeting with Muslim officials, addressing them as "my dear Muslim friends" but raising the issue of terrorism, which he called "cruel fanaticism."
Yet it was clear he was establishing his own style. There were none of John Paul II's theatrical gestures such as kissing the ground on arrival or shuffling to the music. Instead, he read his speeches slowly in a soft voice and waved and smiled shyly at the loud applause that greeted him every time he came out in public.
He expressed serious concern on another of his favorite themes, the need to evangelize a Europe that has become increasingly secular despite its centuries of Christian belief - although the huge turnout for the Sunday Mass was evidence that the church still retains its hold over many people's hearts.
"Some young Germans, especially in the East, have never had a personal encounter with the good news of Jesus Christ," he said.
"Even in traditionally Catholic areas, the teaching of religion and catechesis do not always manage to forge lasting bonds between young people and the church community."
Benedict's visit was also his first homecoming as pope to his native country. He was born in Marktl Am Inn in Bavaria, and said in his farewell remarks at the airport that he hoped people had seen another Germany to counter the shameful memory of Nazi rule and World War II.
"During these days, thanks be to God, it has become quite evident that there was and is another Germany, a land of singular human, cultural and spiritual resources," he said.
During his closing homily at the Mass, he said there is a "strange forgetfulness of God," while at same time the sense of frustration and dissatisfaction has led to a "new explosion of religion."
"I have no wish to discredit all the manifestations of this phenomenon. There may be sincere joy in the discovery," he said. "Yet, if it is pushed too far, religion becomes almost a consumer product. People choose what they like, and some are even able to make a profit from it."
Young Pilgrims Open to New PopeAug 21, 3:03 PM (ET)
By MELISSA EDDY
COLOGNE, Germany (AP) - Two posters hung on a fence where pilgrims camped overnight in a field waiting for the pope's Sunday Mass - one proclaiming "New York Loves John Paul II," the other declaring "New York Loves Benedict XVI."
This year's World Youth Day festival will be remembered as a gathering where not one but two popes held sway and enraptured hundreds of thousands of Roman Catholics from almost 200 countries.
"John Paul was one in a thousand years," said seminarian Joseph Fitzgerald, 35, from New York. "He was an actor and an athlete and knew how to appeal to young people."
Perhaps no one was more saddened by John Paul's death than the faithful who came to Cologne, crowds of youths who had known him as the only pope in their lives and hoped to see him at this World Youth Day.
Over the course of the festival week, they reminisced about John Paul, who started the event in 1984 and always looked forward to joining young people from around the globe, joking, dancing and praying with them.
"To fill John Paul's shoes is impossible," said Sam West, a 35-year-old seminarian from Modesto, Calif.
Yet, even if there was less of the spontaneous warmth they exuded for John Paul, participants readily made space in their hearts for Benedict, finding his shy smiles and kindly gestures of blessing toward the crowds in and around Cologne touching.
As Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state, put it: "All the popes have their own characteristics. Some were extroverted, some were reflective."
"It was hard at first," said Gabriela Morales, whose youth group from St. Phillip Mary parish in New York put up the posters on the fence. "We spent a lot of time together, praying for the new pope."
They had T-shirts printed with "Papa Ben" and camped out beside the Rhine River on Thursday in hopes of catching a glimpse of the new pope as he passed by.
When he did, "I got chills," Morales said. "I know the spirit was moving through me. It was a good feeling."
If he lacked some of John Paul's theatrical touches - kissing the ground on arrival, wearing African headdresses - Benedict showed skill in relating to small groups.
Young Catholics who had lunch with him said they were impressed by his willingness to engage in discussion.
The pope joined them in eating omelets even though a trout had been prepared for him.
"He said the trout would be too difficult to eat if he wanted to talk as much," said German Bishop Franz-Josef Bode, who accompanied the group.
"At first everyone was nervous but that changed very quickly once we saw he was a very open person, very human," said Anna Franziska Herbst, an 18-year-old German at the luncheon.
The pope, who speaks German, Italian, English, French and Spanish, even helped translate when someone did not understand, participants said.
"Benedict could translate nearly every language we spoke," said Martin Hounzinme Adonha, a 27-year-old from the West African nation of Benin.
Throughout the week the streets of Cologne echoed with cries of "Ben-e-det-to! Ben-e-det-to!" and young people delighted in seeing their excitement reflected in the face of the pontiff, who before his election had a reputation as a hard-line conservative because of his role as the Vatican's chief doctrinal watchdog.
"I was excited to see that he was so happy," Johanna Spiezo, 21, of Downers Grove, Ill., said after seeing the pope during a blessing. "You definitely saw he was joyful and wanted to be here with us."
APOSTOLIC JOURNEY TO COLOGNE
ON THE OCCASION OF THE XX WORLD YOUTH DAY
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE BENEDICT XVI
Cologne - Marienfeld
Sunday, 21 August 2005
Dear young friends,
Yesterday evening we came together in the presence of the Sacred Host, in which Jesus becomes for us the bread that sustains and feeds us (cf. Jn 6:35), and there we began our inner journey of adoration. In the Eucharist, adoration must become union. At the celebration of the Eucharist, we find ourselves in the “hour” of Jesus, to use the language of John’s Gospel. Through the Eucharist this “hour” of Jesus becomes our own hour, his presence in our midst. Together with the disciples he celebrated the Passover of Israel, the memorial of God’s liberating action that led Israel from slavery to freedom. Jesus follows the rites of Israel. He recites over the bread the prayer of praise and blessing. But then something new happens. He thanks God not only for the great works of the past; he thanks him for his own exaltation, soon to be accomplished through the Cross and Resurrection, and he speaks to the disciples in words that sum up the whole of the Law and the Prophets: “This is my Body, given in sacrifice for you. This cup is the New Covenant in my Blood”. He then distributes the bread and the cup, and instructs them to repeat his words and actions of that moment over and over again in his memory.
What is happening? How can Jesus distribute his Body and his Blood? By making the bread into his Body and the wine into his Blood, he anticipates his death, he accepts it in his heart and he transforms it into an action of love. What on the outside is simply brutal violence, from within becomes an act of total self-giving love. This is the substantial transformation which was accomplished at the Last Supper and was destined to set in motion a series of transformations leading ultimately to the transformation of the world when God will be all in all (cf. 1 Cor 15:28). In their hearts, people always and everywhere have somehow expected a change, a transformation of the world. Here now is the central act of transformation that alone can truly renew the world: violence is transformed into love, and death into life. Since this act transmutes death into love, death as such is already conquered from within, the resurrection is already present in it. Death is, so to speak, mortally wounded, so that it can no longer have the last word. To use an image well known to us today, this is like inducing nuclear fission in the very heart of being – the victory of love over hatred, the victory of love over death. Only this intimate explosion of good conquering evil can then trigger off the series of transformations that little by little will change the world. All other changes remain superficial and cannot save. For this reason we speak of redemption: what had to happen at the most intimate level has indeed happened, and we can enter into its dynamic. Jesus can distribute his Body, because he truly gives himself.
This first fundamental transformation of violence into love, of death into life, brings other changes in its wake. Bread and wine become his Body and Blood. But it must not stop there, on the contrary, the process of transformation must now gather momentum. The Body and Blood of Christ are given to us so that we ourselves will be transformed in our turn. We are to become the Body of Christ, his own flesh and blood. We all eat the one bread, and this means that we ourselves become one. In this way, adoration, as we said earlier, becomes union. God no longer simply stands before us, as the one who is totally Other. He is within us, and we are in him. His dynamic enters into us and then seeks to spread outwards to others until it fills the world, so that his love can truly become the dominant measure of the world. I like to illustrate this new step urged upon us by the Last Supper by drawing out the different nuances of the word “adoration” in Greek and in Latin. The Greek word is proskynesis. It refers to the gesture of submission, the recognition of God as our true measure, supplying the norm that we choose to follow. It means that freedom is not simply about enjoying life in total autonomy, but rather about living by the measure of truth and goodness, so that we ourselves can become true and good. This gesture is necessary even if initially our yearning for freedom makes us inclined to resist it. We can only fully accept it when we take the second step that the Last Supper proposes to us. The Latin word for adoration is ad-oratio – mouth to mouth contact, a kiss, an embrace, and hence ultimately love. Submission becomes union, because he to whom we submit is Love. In this way submission acquires a meaning, because it does not impose anything on us from the outside, but liberates us deep within.
Let us return once more to the Last Supper. The new element to emerge here was the deeper meaning given to Israel’s ancient prayer of blessing, which from that point on became the word of transformation, enabling us to participate in the “hour” of Christ. Jesus did not instruct us to repeat the Passover meal, which in any event, given that it is an anniversary, is not repeatable at will. He instructed us to enter into his “hour”. We enter into it through the sacred power of the words of consecration – a transformation brought about through the prayer of praise which places us in continuity with Israel and the whole of salvation history, and at the same time ushers in the new, to which the older prayer at its deepest level was pointing. The new prayer – which the Church calls the “Eucharistic Prayer” – brings the Eucharist into being. It is the word of power which transforms the gifts of the earth in an entirely new way into God’s gift of himself and it draws us into this process of transformation. That is why we call this action “Eucharist”, which is a translation of the Hebrew word beracha – thanksgiving, praise, blessing, and a transformation worked by the Lord: the presence of his “hour”. Jesus’s hour is the hour in which love triumphs. In other words: it is God who has triumphed, because he is Love. Jesus’s hour seeks to become our own hour and will indeed become so if we allow ourselves, through the celebration of the Eucharist, to be drawn into that process of transformation that the Lord intends to bring about. The Eucharist must become the centre of our lives. If the Church tells us that the Eucharist is an essential part of Sunday, this is no mere positivism or thirst for power. On Easter morning, first the women and then the disciples had the grace of seeing the Lord. From that moment on, they knew that the first day of the week, Sunday, would be his day, the day of Christ the Lord. The day when creation began became the day when creation was renewed. Creation and redemption belong together. That is why Sunday is so important. It is good that today, in many cultures, Sunday is a free day, and is often combined with Saturday so as to constitute a “week-end” of free time. Yet this free time is empty if God is not present. Dear friends! Sometimes, our initial impression is that having to include time for Mass on a Sunday is rather inconvenient. But if you make the effort, you will realize that this is what gives a proper focus to your free time. Do not be deterred from taking part in Sunday Mass, and help others to discover it too. This is because the Eucharist releases the joy that we need so much, and we must learn to grasp it ever more deeply, we must learn to love it. Let us pledge ourselves to do this – it is worth the effort! Let us discover the intimate riches of the Church’s liturgy and its true greatness: it is not we who are celebrating for ourselves, but it is the living God himself who is preparing a banquet for us. Through your love for the Eucharist you will also rediscover the sacrament of Reconciliation, in which the merciful goodness of God always allows us to make a fresh start in our lives.
Anyone who has discovered Christ must lead others to him. A great joy cannot be kept to oneself. It has to be passed on. In vast areas of the world today there is a strange forgetfulness of God. It seems as if everything would be just the same even without him. But at the same time there is a feeling of frustration, a sense of dissatisfaction with everyone and everything. People tend to exclaim: “This cannot be what life is about!” Indeed not. And so, together with forgetfulness of God there is a kind of new explosion of religion. I have no wish to discredit all the manifestations of this phenomenon. There may be sincere joy in the discovery. Yet if it is pushed too far, religion becomes almost a consumer product. People choose what they like, and some are even able to make a profit from it. But religion constructed on a “do-it-yourself” basis cannot ultimately help us. It may be comfortable, but at times of crisis we are left to ourselves. Help people to discover the true star which points out the way to us: Jesus Christ! Let us seek to know him better and better, so as to be able to guide others to him with conviction. This is why love for Sacred Scripture is so important, and in consequence, it is important to know the faith of the Church which opens up for us the meaning of Scripture. It is the Holy Spirit who guides the Church as her faith grows, causing her to enter ever more deeply into the truth (cf. Jn 16:13). Pope John Paul II gave us a wonderful work in which the faith of centuries is explained synthetically: the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I myself recently presented the Compendium of the Catechism, prepared at the request of the late Holy Father. These are two fundamental texts which I recommend to all of you.
Obviously books alone are not enough. Form communities based on faith! In recent decades movements and communities have come to birth in which the power of the Gospel is keenly felt. Seek communion in faith, like fellow travellers who continue together to follow the path of the great pilgrimage that the Magi from the East first pointed out to us. The spontaneity of new communities is important, but it is also important to preserve communion with the Pope and with the Bishops. It is they who guarantee that we are not seeking private paths, but are living as God’s great family, founded by the Lord through the twelve Apostles.
Once again, I must return to the Eucharist. “Because there is one bread, we, though many, are one body” says Saint Paul (1 Cor 10:17). By this he meant: since we receive the same Lord and he gathers us together and draws us into himself, we ourselves are one. This must be evident in our lives. It must be seen in our capacity to forgive. It must be seen in our sensitivity to the needs of others. It must be seen in our willingness to share. It must be seen in our commitment to our neighbours, both those close at hand and those physically far away, whom we nevertheless consider to be close. Today there are many forms of voluntary assistance, models of mutual service, of which our society has urgent need. We must not, for example, abandon the elderly to their solitude, we must not pass by when we meet people who are suffering. If we think and live according to our communion with Christ, then our eyes will be opened. Then we will no longer be content to scrape a living just for ourselves, but we will see where and how we are needed. Living and acting thus, we will soon realize that it is much better to be useful and at the disposal of others than to be concerned only with the comforts that are offered to us. I know that you as young people have great aspirations, that you want to pledge yourselves to build a better world. Let others see this, let the world see it, since this is exactly the witness that the world expects from the disciples of Jesus Christ; in this way, and through your love above all, the world will be able to discover the star that we follow as believers.
Let us go forward with Christ and let us live our lives as true worshippers of God! Amen.