Pope Benedict's WYD: Space made for silence, solemnity
VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI has put his own stamp on the Church's celebration of World Youth Day, and it's especially clear in the gathering's moments of prayer.
In Cologne, Germany, six years ago -- Pope Benedict's first WYD as pope -- he surprised the youths at the Saturday night vigil by urging them to quiet down.
The Cologne event was where he started a major new WYD tradition: Instead of ending the vigil with a boisterous musical finale, he ended it with Eucharistic Adoration -- with tens of thousands of young people kneeling silently in a field. The scene was repeated in Australia in 2008.
During World Youth Day 2011, scheduled for Aug. 16-21 in Madrid, Eucharistic Adoration again will cap the pope's participation at the vigil. Adoration and prayer also will continue throughout the night on the edges of the military airport where many of the young people are expected to camp overnight.
In fact, organizers are planning to have 17 tents set up as chapels for all-night adoration.
The visual focal point when the pope leads the adoration and Benediction will be a monstrance set into a towering 16th-century gothic structure of silver and gold usually housed in the Toledo cathedral.
The traditional, solemn sense communicated by the Toledo monstrance will be echoed in the papal liturgies throughout the trip, organizers said.
"The point is to highlight that the central person of World Youth Day is Jesus Christ, and the pope is coming to proclaim him," said Father Javier Cremades, Madrid coordinator of the liturgies.
However, not all of Father Cremades' plans emphasize the formal.
"We'll wake the young people with mariachi music" the morning of Aug. 21, hours before the pope arrives to celebrate the final Mass at the Cuatro Vientos military airport, he said.
"Young people will come to World Youth Day to celebrate with the Holy Father," he said. "If they did not want to attend a liturgy in the pope's style, they wouldn't be coming."
Young women and men will proclaim the Scripture readings at the Mass and read the prayers of the faithful; seminarians will fulfill the role of altar servers. Up to 6,000 singers 25 years old and younger -- members of choirs from around the world -- will sing the hymns at the Mass.
Blessed John Paul was the pope with the reputation for rallying and energizing thousands of young Catholics and particularly for drawing energy from them.
But in a passage that sounds like he was surprised about the impact that the celebration had on him, Pope Benedict told an interviewer, "these youth days have actually turned out to be a genuine gift for me."
In the book "Light of the World," he told Peter Seewald that he was struck by the "intense joy" and "the spirit of recollection that, amazingly, pervades the actual World Youth Days themselves."
Talking about the experience in Sydney at WYD 2008, he said, "It was quite simply the common joy of faith that carried us through and that made it possible for hundreds of thousands of people to remain in silence before the sacrament and so to become one."
Pope Benedict has insisted that real, even prolonged moments of silence be added to every liturgy he celebrates.
Visiting Sulmona, Italy, in 2010, he said, "We live today in a society in which every space, every moment must be 'filled' with initiatives, activities and sound," so that there is no time for listening and dialogue.
"Dear brothers and sisters, don't be afraid of silence outside and inside ourselves, if we want to hear not only the voice of God but also of those who are close to us, the voices of others," he said.
Yago de la Cierva, executive director of World Youth Day Madrid, said that while organizers, priests and even the pope cannot control what the Holy Spirit does in the lives of the young pilgrims, they must be serious about preparing an atmosphere where the Spirit's action can be recognized.
"One important thing is to take great care with the liturgy, so the young will say, 'Wow, the Mass is beautiful,'" he said.
Pictured above: World Youth Day pilgrims pray during a service in Burgos, Spain, Aug. 12. Burgos was one of the stops that pilgrims marked "Days in the Dioceses" before heading to Madrid for the main events of the Aug. 16-21 international youth gathering. (CNS photo/Felix Ordonez, Reuters)
— Cindy Wooden, Catholic News Service
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