Catholic World News News Feature

Stage set for Cologne World Youth Day August 13, 2005

The official opening ceremonies for the 20th World Youth Day in Germany will be on August 16.

After morning prayer in parishes throughout the three cities that are hosting WYD pilgrims (Bonn and Dusseldorf as well as Cologne), participants will take part in a youth festival. In the afternoon, Mass will be celebrated simultaneously in the three host cities, formally opening the event. The celebrants will be Cardinal Joachim Meisner of Cologne; Cardinal Karl Lehmann, the president of the German bishops' conference; and Bishop Franz-Josef Bode, the director of youth work for the German bishops.

For three days, August 17- 19, there will be dozens of catechetical sessions, led by bishops from all over the world. These teaching sessions will be held in the mornings, continuing until just afternoon. The afternoons will see musical performances and recreational activities, along with prayer meetings. Participants will be encouraged to make use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and to visit the relics of the Magi, which will be on display in the Cologne cathedral.

Pope Benedict XVI will arrive in Cologne, and hold his first meeting with young participants, on August 18. He will address the crowd for the first time from a boat on the Rhine, then make his own personal pilgrimage to venerate the relics of the Magi.

On August 19, the main event will be the Stations of the Cross. But unlike previous WYD sites, the Cologne observance will have several different places to commemorate Christ's Passion.

Saturday, August 20, will see the massive movement of young pilgrims from their temporary lodging in the three host cities to Marienfeld (the German name means "Mary's field"), a large park outside Cologne, for a final prayer vigil and overnight encampment. In recognition of the Year of the Eucharist, the prayer vigil will end with silent adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

Pope Benedict XVI will preside at the final Mass on Sunday, August 21, bringing the WYD ceremonies to an end. During that ceremony, the Pope will deliver the first symbolic copies of the new Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. He will also announce the location selected for the next World Youth Day ceremonies, to be held in 2007 or 2008. Sydney, Australia, is the heavy favorite.