THE Queensland pilgrimage to World Youth Day came to a fitting climax with a Mass at Marienfeld, Cologne on August 21, celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI.
Preceded the previous evening by a vigil service, 1 million young pilgrims descended on the huge open space, by train, bus and foot to sleep outdoors for the night, occupying almost every square inch of the huge grassy area.
Despite the inconvenience of a 3 km walk from the railway station, the optimism and energy of the 120 young men and women from Queensland was remarkable.
Sprained ankles, upset stomachs and chest infections were forgotten as they gathered with the successor of St Peter to celebrate Catholicism’s great act of worship, the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
As Fr Anthony Mellor of Brisbane had eloquently told them the previous morning, they had every reason to feel proud of themselves because they are not merely the future of the Church but most intimately associated with its present mission.
Without them the Church would lack the energy, vitality, courage and optimism that is so badly needed in today’s very secular world.
Pope Benedict echoed those same sentiments when he challenged the pilgrims to follow in the same footsteps of Christ, accepting Christ’s challenge to become deeply involved in his mission to the world.
I have no doubt that all of them will do so in their own individual way, as they seek answers to the often difficult questions that are a normal part of young people’s search for purpose and meaning in a world that the Pope reminds us is tainted with the scourge of relatism.
It is difficult to judge the overall impact of the Queensland pilgrimage on the pilgrims themselves.
They certainly have changed remarkably in a comparatively short time, as they became a family forged in the travelling discomfort of Turkey, Greece and Germany, nourished by the prayers and the sacrament of the Church led by the bishops and priests of Queensland.
They will return home changed by the memories of the pilgrimage that will shape and mould their future lives, some suddenly, others over a longer period.
As well as this impact on their faith the pilgrimage has forged exciting new friendships for all, some of which will last for a lifetime.
They may also have arrived at a new understanding of Church through their day by day contact with one another and with the bishops, priests, leaders and chaperones who journeyed with them.
Please God, this brilliant, spiritual initiative of Pope John Paul II 20 years ago will continue to flourish under the leadership of Pope Benedict XVI, and in 2008 unleash its own spiritual power on the Great South Land of the Holy Spirit.
May God bless all those people, parents, teachers, sponsors and youth organisers who have made the Queensland pilgrimage in 2005 the great success it has proved to be.
May Mary, the Mother of Jesus, who told all people to “Do whatever He tells you”, continue to lead young people to Christ, the Light of our exciting but uncertain world.
Pope Benedict would certainly like to add some clarity to the lives of young people and World Youth Day 2005 seemed to indicate that they are only too willing to follow his advice.
The Catholic Leader is an Australian award-winning Catholic newspaper that has been published by the Archdiocese of Brisbane since 1929. Our journalism seeks to provide a full, accurate and balanced Catholic perspective of local, national and international news while upholding the dignity of the human person.
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