In 2005 the 20th Catholic World Youth Festival (in German: XX. Weltjugendtag) was held in Cologne, Germany (from August 16 to August 21). This was the first participation in the world youth meeting of Pope Benedict XVIth (and me). From Aug 16 to 19th 200 countries, 400,000 young people participated in the programs, schools, universities, church groups, religious organizations and representatives but during the weekend the number had trippled, in 21 of August, 1,200,000 faithful were attended to the Pope’s mass.
At the wrong place at the wrong time
Since I don’t really follow the events of church life’s, it is no wonder that the 20st Catholic World Youth Festival escaped my attention. At that time my husband worked in Munich, and we saw each other far and few between. On the 18th of August was my husband’s turn to come home, and we were ignorant enough toward the outside world so it could happen on that way that we agreed to meet in Cologne. I thought it would also be a good opportunity for a shopping spree. I like Cologne very much, we had often been there with my daughters as it is only two and a half-hours away from Brussels. In the hope of doing some shopping again my younger daughter accompanied me. After a smooth and seamless trip we arrived in Cologne at half past ten, and had easily found a parking place not far from the city. With the joy of seeing my husband soon we started walking towards the cathedral, but a short time later, we were stopped by the unusual sight of crowds and lots of policemen. When we made some inquiry we had learned that the city was considered to the 20th Catholic World Youth Summit! It is fine we thought, it definitely means a good event with fancy fair and the evening Mass, on which we can not participate, and so naively we went on and headed to the shopping street. But after a few steps we had to adapt to the surging crowd. The whole maze reminded us as if we were in a rock concert, young people were hoping mad and singing, the only difference was the audience: priests, monks and nuns in their uniforms from different denominations. I think because they had already been excited enough of the thought that they would meet the Pope personally. Later walking in the street became more and more difficult and finally we found ourselves among some Brazilian chatolics. It also meant that we had been trapped because there was no way out. We couldn’t go neither forward nor backward. What a bad luck I thought and I started to worry how could we manage to meet my husband at the subway station at 12 o’clock?
My daughter suggested: “Mom we need to get out of here somehow, otherwise we would avoid to meet father” – And then something happened a woman who was standing next to us turned into green and silently fainted. My teenage girl who had participated in some pop, rock concerts had already experienced similar situations so she acted routinely and shouted lustily in German: “Somebody help! There is a woman on the pavement”. Instead of God, a policeman showed up, and we were released behind on the heels of paramedics they cleared the way immediately. Meanwhile the victim was exported on a stretcher in the ambulance care we could also escape from the crowd.
So where to go now? We asked each others helplessly, after we recovered from the not nice experience. – “Look for a safe place and wait there for father, proposed my daughter. It was a wise advice, and we acted according to that. Meanwhile we were waiting for him we killed the time studying the nuns, monks, and their loose behaviors. We saw Spanish nuns, who were clinging to a rope in the fear of not losing each other. Then Italian nuns, who were jumping up and down rhythmically with excitement, in the hope of that soon the Pope will deploy front of them. Later we were crashed into a Hawaiian priest’s chest, a 38-40 year old man, who seemed to be in complet despair, as it turned out later he was swept away from his flock. He came from Waikiki and did not know what to do. I reassured him that Cologne is not a big city to not find his fellows. From then on, he persisted in our side.
Meanwhile my husband was still trapped in the airport. He let us know by SMS that he had already arrived a half an hour ago, but stuck in the airport which would be closed until of the pope’s leaving it and not a soul was allowed to go in or out until he resides there.
At 12.25 a great roar shook the square of the cathedral. We immediately knew that only the appearence of the pope can provoke such an ardour. A few minutes later came another message (not from the pope, but from my husband), that finally the exits had been opened and we did not believe that, but in about 5 minutes later we had found each other. We wanted to rush to the car, but the police formed a cordon and did not allow anyone to change its place until the pope walked around the square in his bulletproof capsule (the pope mobil). The mass hysteria outbroke, a few nuns wept, Negro groups sang gospel “I will follow him wherever He may go” … and then suddenly there was a great silence because the pope’s mobil appeared in the curves. Yes, it was him, Papa Razzi as he was called jokingly by the German press. Meanwhile the pope approached us very slowly I recalled the memory of my religious grandparents, my grandmother, who always dreamed of that one day she could pilgrimage to Rome in order to see the Pope but instead she got a rosary from us from Rome. Then the distance between us and the pope became less and less. Only 200 meters left then 100, then the holy man stood before us in life-sized and we could look through his capsule. His hair was as white as snow, his ivory white festive dress matched to it and a giant gold cross was hanging around his neck. He looked astonishing. And the air around him flowed endless peace and harmony, joy, spiritual peace and contentment. And then miracle happened, he glanced at us with a kind, loving smile, raised his hand and blessed us! After 10 minutes we were released by the police and could reach our car.
In one thing I am certain, this year I’m not going to meet anyone in Madrid, specially not in the mids of August !
History of the World Youth Day dates back to 1986. At the initiative of Pope John Paul the II was the first meeting in Rome. Since then, every three years two meetings will be held. In Cologne in 2005, 1.200 000 young people attended the closing Mass and 7,000 journalists. It was also known that as Joseph Alois Ratzinger now Pope Benedict’s XVI was his first public appearance in the Catholic world. In 2008, the meeting was in Toronto this year will be held in Madrid.
The Pope’s 2005 apostolic journey in Germany
In January of 2005 Pope John Paul II died, in April the new pope was inaugurated, the German-born Ratzinger, chose the name Benedict XVI th (this name was chosen because St. Benedict was Europe’s patron saint. Another argument is that he wants to continue Pope Benedict XV’s footsteps in his peace project. Benedict XVI th is the eight German pope in history. The last German pope was pope Adrian VI nearly 500 years ago.