IN her final report on the World Youth Day pilgrimage, VIRGINIA VAN DER MEER tells of the wave of excitement in Rome for the climactic event.
World Youth Day had begun, and despite many challenges faced through organisational abilities, we eventually were able to head for Rome along with the other 2.1 million young people with the same agenda.
Many lined the streets of Rome waiting for a glimpse of the popemobile while others crammed into St Peter’s Basilica for the opening address.
There were so many different things to see and do, so our group was continually split. Some headed off to Catechesis in Ostia, to learn a little more about their Catholic faith.
Others headed into Rome for a pilgrimage to St Peter’s. We all saw what we could, despite line ups that lasted for more than a kilometre into many of the famous sites. Crowds of young people stormed Rome, danced in fountains, sang in the streets.
Walking through the Holy Door at St Peter’s though was well worth it. This capped off the pilgrimage. We had been to Bethlehem where it all began, to Galilee where most of the ministry took place, and to Jerusalem, where our faith was propelled into the future. St Peter’s put the icing on the cake.
We all psyched ourselves up for it and began the 13km walk to Tor Vergata University for an all-night sleep out. It took most of us around five hours in the middle of an Italian summer’s day. You could pick an Aussie a mile away – they were the sun-conscious ones.
Water trucks were ordered in to hose us down every few kilometres. We finally arrived, feeling a little worse for wear and made our makeshift Bush Tucker Man blue tarp tents.
The people kept pouring in until we were all lying side by side. The sun eventually went down and it all began. The Holy Father arrived by helicopter to the cheers of 2.1 million young people. He drove through the crowd then on to the huge stage erected purely for this purpose.
He welcomed us all, listened to us sing and dance, then invited us all to light our candles – an ocean of candles as you looked out over a sea of millions of young people. Truly a memorable experience. So many people gathered from all corners of the globe to participate in the one thing for the one reason – faith.
The night ended with fireworks as some of us bedded down for the night and others kept the music and dancing going.
World Youth Day
We woke with the sun beating down on our faces. And before long, the Pope was back to celebrate Mass.
It was all over and we began the 13km walk back to the train station. We finally arrived back and collapsed. It was over, our pilgrimage was complete.
But now there is so much more to do. We all have to take back our journey to share with all those back home. And they are all journeys well worth sharing. Now we all go our separate ways. Many head off to become tourists in foreign lands, others begin other pilgrimages to places such as Taize, Assisi or Medjugorje. Many return home, to slip not so quietly back into the normal routine of their own lives back home.
But this pilgrimage will be something that our great-grandchildren will hear of. It is something that has touched our hearts so deeply that sometimes words just aren’t enough.
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