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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

World Youth Day/ Ground Zero

Dear Friends,

We have had hundreds of visits from people like you interested in what happened at World Youth Day in Cologne {and Dusseldorf and Bonn}. Thanks to everyone who has come to this site. Now for the events of the week in Germany. On Wednesday, with everyone safely at the Majestic Hotel in Dusseldorf, we were able to venture forth into Cologne to see the great Cathedral. Wolfgang Raach, our director of security and German-speaking connection with local security and also the press and limousine service, helped to organize us into two vans and a sedan for the trip into Cologne to visit the incredibly beautiful Gothic Cathedral in Cologne that is almost 1000 years old. It survived the saturation bombing of World War II that did not spare many other historic sites in Europe such as Monte Casino. It has been treasured as one of the most exquisite examples of Gothic architecture in the world. By tradition, the devotion to the Magi in the Christian world is centered here at Cologne Cathedral. The theme of World Youth Day, "We have come to worship Him," comes from the words of the three kings in the Gospel. As we approached Cologne the twin spires of the Cathedral could be seen from a great distance and they dominate the skyline along the historic Rhine River that flows through Cologne.

Throngs of thousands of young people are everywhere as we arrive around 10 AM on a sunny Wednesday morning. You can not help but feel your spirit soar to the heavens as you gaze at the elegant spires, the majestic buttresses and the great vaulted interior of this beautiful house of God. The windows are a blaze of glory on this bright morning. One can not but be edified by the purposeful movement of the crowds through the apse and the nave of the great church. Jim and Kerri Caviezel and Wolfgang clearly find themselves as enraptured as I by this bounty of beauty all around us. In some ways the milling young people around the cathedral plaza holding aloft flags of many nations serve to complement the beauty of this experience.

One unexpected group in front of the cathedral is the choir of young men dressed in white shirts and ties singing hymns, one of which is in German but sounds like "A Mighty Fortress is Our God." Intrigued by this group, who appear to be Mormon missionaries, I have the chance to interview Elder James from Seattle. He confirms that they are indeed Mormon missionaries from the United States serving in Germany. Elder James is not more than 24 years old. After a brief dialogue, as we part company, I try to assure him that he is welcome there among so many Catholics since we are all children of a good God.

This Cathedral is where the Holy Father Pope Benedict will be welcomed to World Youth Day tomorrow, Thursday.

After lunch in a local restaurant we head back to Dusseldorf. Young Maximilian Gilyard, just over two years old, has taken up the chant one hears everywhere, BE-NE-DET-TO. Especially when there is a lull in conversation, he reminds us of our new pope.

Back in Dusseldorf, Clarence Gilyard, Paul Gilyard, his son, and I, go to a Church set up as "Domus Vitae" house of life, to listen to a speech by the Baroness Von Galen, the niece of Blessed Cardinal Von Galen, of WestPhalia. She was eager to share his holiness, his strong, heroic and public opposition to National Socialism and the Nazis during World War II. She spoke in German and had a translator who tried to share the Baroness' words in French. This speech was in a garden outside the Church. Following the talk, we entered the Church for Mass in French with some young people from the Diocese of St Etienne in France. I concelebrated the Mass and read the Gospel. The young priest who presided stunned me and others with the announcement, during his homily, that the beloved, 90-year-old founder of Taizé had been assassinated during Evening Prayer at the monastery in France. Those who witnessed the funeral of Pope John Paul will recall that a solitary figure in the sanctuary at Saint Peter's was given communion first by then Cardinal Ratzinger. That figure was the venerable Frère Roger.

Following this sad news, we finally returned to the hotel and joined the others for dinner that first full day in Germany. Tomorrow, the Pope arrives in Cologne.

Peace and God's blessing for a good night.

Father Willy Raymond, CSC.

1 comment:

Ederic said...

Dear Father,

I wasn't able to join the WYD since I was denied a German/Schengen visa. To recover the visa application and other fees, I'm selling my unused WYD souvenirs at eBay. You and your friends may want to see the items.