24,000 U.S. YOUTH
AMONG THOSE FLOODING GERMANY FOR WORLD YOUTH DAY
Denver, Aug. 15, 2005 (CNA)
- This week, some 600 young people from Denver, Colorado
will complete the overseas trek to join an estimated
800,000 youth from around the world--as well as Pope
Benedict XVI--for the 20th World Youth Day.
The city is still awash
with memories of Pope John Paul II’s 1993 visit for that
year’s World Youth Day celebration held in Denver, a
moment which many say, lit the fire for the Archdiocese
of Denver to become one of the strongest and most
well-respected in the country.
John Paul instituted the
worldwide event in 1984 in his native Poland as a
profound way to reach out to the youth of the planet
with the message of the Gospel.
Pope Benedict commented
during his inauguration ceremony last spring that, "If
we look at these young people who were gathered around
the late Pope, and as a result, around Christ, whose
cause the Pope espoused, something just as comforting
could be seen: it is not true that young people think
only of consumerism and pleasure. It is not true that
they are materialistic and self-centered.”
“Just the opposite is
true,” he said. “Young people want great things. They
want an end to injustice. They want inequalities to be
overcome and all peoples to have their share in the
earth's goods. They want freedom for the oppressed. They
want great things, good things."
While most admit that the
new pope has big shoes to fill, many are convinced that
Benedict is up to the challenge.
Karen Wasinger, a youth
minister from the Shrine of St. Anne parish near Denver,
told the Denver Post that, "I think Pope Benedict's
really looking to continue the call upon young people to
be the light of Christ."
Cardinal Francis George is excited to see the new pope’s
impact on the young people. He told the Chicago Tribune
that, "He's shown himself in crowds to be such a humble
man, such an authentic man…Young people will respond
well to that. They respond well to authenticity, and he
is who he is. There is nothing there that is not utterly
While 15-year old
Neyhelly Ochoa, from the Chicago suburb of Melrose Park,
is disappointed that she won’t get to see John Paul II
at this year’s WYD, she told the Tribune that, "I still
think it's going to be really cool. We all loved John
Paul and he taught us so many different things…Now, we
have a new pope and I want to give him a chance. I want
to see how he acts on this trip with the young people
and what he tells us to do."
The U.S. Conference of
Catholic Bishops estimates that 24,000 young people from
the U.S. will be in Cologne.
Denver’s 19-year old
Philip Oldham plans to be front and center for what many
see as a defining moment in Benedict’s young papacy.
The Holy Father has said
that he wants be a unifier for the Church, and Oldham
told the Denver Post that he’s “excited to see how he
"As a cardinal, he was a
strict enforcer of dogma,” Oldham pointed out. “He put a
nix on things coming through that didn't line up with
Catholic dogma." But, he added, this is a prime chance
for the new pontiff to light a fire in the hearts of
"Some people just think,
'We're going to Germany,' not 'We're going to see the
pope.' We need to keep focused on the reason we are
there, and that's Jesus," he said.