VATICAN (CWNews.com) -- As Rome braced for the arrival of the hundreds of thousands of young
people expected to participate in next week's World Youth Day celebration, the Vatican gave the
media a final rundown on preparations for the events.
At an August 11 press conference, Cardinal James Francis Stafford, the president of the Pontifical
Council for the Laity, and Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Pope's vicar for Rome, briefed reporters on the
organization of World Youth Day activities.
Although the influx of young people is not expected to begin until August 14, the prelates revealed,
some 25,000 volunteers are already at their stations, ready to greet the arrivals. On Saturday, August
12, these volunteers will themselves be officially greeted in St. Peter's Square, and Cardinal Ruini will
preside at a Mass for them there; another group of 5,000 volunteers will travel to
Castelgandalfo, the Pope's summer residence, where the Pontiff will receive them.
These volunteers-- predominantly Italian, although 40 different countries are represented among
them-- will take charge of the logistical tasks involved in handling the enormous crowds that are
anticipated: greeting the young pilgrims, giving directions, and coordinating transportation. Some
volunteers have been assigned to special duties such as escorting handicapped guests, journalists, and
ecclesiastical dignitaries. Still others will act as ushers for the large ceremonies during the week.
Msgr. Cesare Nosiglia, the president of the Italian committee for World Youth day, told reporters that
he expects 500,000 young people to arrive by August 15, and another 700,000 later in the week, so
that the crowd will swell to 1.2 million for the climactic celebrations of August 19 and 20.
At least 160 countries will send representatives to World Youth Day. Cardinal Stafford said that aside
from Italy, the countries sending the largest delegations will be France (with 60,000 pilgrims), Poland
(40,000), Spain (30,000), and the United States (30,000).
As these pilgrims begin arriving in force on August 14, they will be welcomed to Rome and lodged in
homes, schools, parishes, public buildings, and hotels in the Eternal City and surrounding areas. The
first major events of World Youth Day will be on August 15, the feast of the Assumption, when the
young pilgrims will celebrate Mass in the parishes where they are staying.
Later in the day, they will be officially welcomed to Rome; divided into two separate groups, they willgo either to St. Peter's Square or to the mall
outside the basilica of St. John Lateran. Pope John Paul II will visit both sites to greet them.
August 16, 17, and 18 will be devoted to a series of catechetical talks, with 323 bishops scheduled to
address the young people. Also, the pilgrims-- organized in smaller groups and following a tight
schedule-- will make their own Jubilee pilgrimages, entering St. Peter's basilica through the Holy Door.
The centerpiece of the World Youth Day observance will be a day-long session of prayer, music, and
witness, at which all 1.2 million pilgrims will participate. That event will unfold at Tor Vergata, on the
outskirts of Rome, where an outdoor site has been carefully prepared. Most of the young pilgrims will
camp there on Saturday night, before the Mass on Sunday morning, celebrated by the Holy Father and
broadcast across the world, which will be final event of World Youth Day.