VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI has put his own stamp on the Church’s celebration of World Youth Day (WYD), and it’s especially clear in the gathering’s moments of prayer.
In Cologne, Germany, six years ago – his first WYD as pope – he surprised the youths at the Saturday night vigil by urging them to quieten 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 WYD 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, organisers 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 point is to highlight that the central person of World Youth Day is Jesus Christ, and the pope is coming to proclaim him,” said Fr Javier Cremades, Madrid coordinator of the liturgies.
However, not all of Fr Cremades’ plans emphasise 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.”
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.
Mr Yago de la Cierva, executive director of World Youth Day Madrid, said that while organisers, 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 recognised.
“One important thing is to take great care with the liturgy, so the young will say, ‘Wow, the Mass is beautiful,’” he said. -CNS