XX World Youth Day Cologne
     August 16th to 21st, 2005

We Have Come to Worship Him





Br. Johannes Nepomuk Willemsen, O. Carm.
Upper German Province

Overview of the WYD Sites | Carmelite Participation
Monday, August 15th  |  Tuesday, August 16th  |  Wednesday, August 17th  |  Thursday, August 18th
Friday, August 19  |  Saturday, August 20  |  Sunday, August 21
Closing Comments

        Overview of the WYD Sites:

Bonn, Düsseldorf and Cologne are the three core cities of the 2005 World Youth Day. They all proudly refer to their Rhineland tradition. The northern Rhineland, a part of North Rhine-Westphalia, is geographically and culturally well defined by “father” Rhine and its position in the heart of Europe. The multicultural region has developed from a traditionally industrial combined with excellent economic, cultural and transport infrastructures into an attractive location for services, media and telecommunications. Stretching over a distance of almost 100 km (from north to south) these three cities each have their own special charisma. So do their inhabitants who really care about their roots...

During World Youth Day, residents of Bonn, Düsseldorf and Cologne, as well as in many other cities and municipalities in the archdiocese of Cologne, will accommodate hundreds of thousands of young people from all over the world. Furthermore numerous small and large catecheses and events that are part of the Youth Festival will take place in those three cities.


Carmelite Participation:

The Carmelite Order does not offer an independent centre at the WYD while other religious orders use the international gathering in order to present their spirituality, open up for the young people or simply pray together with the pilgrims. Nevertheless individuals from different provinces are taking part as normal pilgrims, group leaders, volunteers, etc. and thereby represent the Carmelite family.

Two brothers are working as volunteers in the parish of Saint Josef which is cared for by Carmelites of Lower German Province. One brother is helping in the spiritual centre of the orders in Germany situated in the Romanesque church of Saint Kunibert in Cologne which offers spiritual guidance, prayers and a 24 hour adoration in the crypt.


Monday, August 15th:

Arrival of the first pilgrims.

About 400.000 pilgrims from all over the world arrived in Cologne today.

Most of them, traveling by train, were filling up the main station of Cologne which is next to the famous cathedral. Large groups of Italian, Polish, Spanish, and French youth gathered on the square in-between and celebrated together. No language barrier kept them apart. All kinds of different country banners were flying in the cloudy skies of the event city at the river Rhine, creating an atmosphere of a truly international party.


Tuesday 16th:

Opening ceremony:

The official program of the World Youth Day 2005 started with the morning prayers for today. The pilgrims are all assigned to one of the parishes in either Bonn, Cologne or Düsseldorf in order to participate in the daily morning prayers and catecheses, together with the sacrament of reconciliation and a closing mass. I assume that not everybody was actually taking part in this point of program due to the chaotic conditions in the local subway and train system. Nevertheless the people were happy to welcome the many young Catholics from all over the globe. In the afternoon there were many opportunities to meet brothers and sisters from various religious orders and groups throughout the three cities. The opening ceremonies were split so that a majority of the pilgrims were able to attend in the three core cities of the XXth World Youth Day. Opening masses were held in Cologne with Cardinal Meisner (250000 pilgrims), in Bonn with Bishop Bode (100000 pilgrims) and in Düsseldorf with Cardinal Lehmann (70000 pilgrims).


Wednesday 17th:

Pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Cologne

Starting at 6 a.m. a pilgrimage with more than 500,000 participants began. As an indispensable part of Cologne, the cathedral was the highlight on the way.

During World Youth Day, the Cathedral is purely a place of pilgrimage, i.e. there are no regular guided tours of the Cathedral. However, to take account of the cultural and historical significance of the building, the Cathedral project was developed. Before entering the Cathedral one can make use of the wait outside by visiting the multimedia exhibition on the Cathedral’s history, offering a chronological overview of the 2,000 year history of Christianity in Cologne and of the history of the Cathedral’s construction. Major items of worship and pilgrimage items such as the Cross of Gero, the Madonna of Milan, the altar by Stephan Lochner and above all the shrine of the Magi are exhibited separately. The whole day was another an example, even with such a large crowd of young people, of an well-behaved international gathering. But above all the differences in culture and language there is One who truly unifies all of them, Jesus Christ.


Thursday 18th:

Oh Happy Day: The Pope is here

Hundreds of thousands of youths gave an enthusiastic welcome to Pope Benedict on his arrival in Cologne. After being welcomed at the Cologne/Bonn airport by German president Horst Köhler, the Pope boarded a ship for an afternoon trip on the River Rhine, his destination to the Cologne cathedral.

There he prayed at the reliquary of the Three Magi. Before winding through downtown Cologne with his Popemobile, the Pope stood beneath sunny skies and addressed hundreds of thousands of cheering young people in two speeches, encouraging them to open themselves to Christ. However the enthusiasm for some of the Catholic teachings does not match their enthusiasm for the head of the Catholic Church. The young people have no problem to welcome the Pope like a superstar without following him on all points. They may hold some of their own opinions rather than the teachings of the Church. But their own opinions, with regards to sexuality for example, will not fundamentally change. And they are also not holding back their criticism of the church, being well aware of the fact that “they should take responsibility in church and society” (Pope John Paul II).

Several places throughout the three core cities of the WYD offered a wide variety of cultural activities, such as concerts.


Friday 19th:

Official program for the Pope – Party time for the pilgrims. While Pope Benedict XVI completed his official mission by visits to the President of Germany Horst Köhler, to delegates of the Protestants and Orthodox and to Cologne’s synagogue, most of the pilgrims seized the day by visiting the town centre with all its attractions. No thunderstorm and rainy weather could stop them from being in a good mood and partying throughout the streets of Cologne.

In addition, the pilgrimage to the cathedral (Dom) continued and some pilgrims took part in a “way of the cross” at the local parishes. This is the last day before taking off to the Marienfeld outside the city where more than 1,000,000 young pilgrims are expected to attend the concluding mass with the Pope.