Late Night with a Difference in the city of Cologne
Put forty young people together on a foreign trip and you expect late
nights and early mornings. But for forty young people from around
Mayo and Galway late nights in August had a different significance
this year. The forty young adults from the diocese of Tuam made the
journey to Cologne in Germany to attend the World Youth Day 2005 celebrations
in the company of Benedict XVI. It is estimated that in excess of
1.2 million people from over 162 countries throughout the world attended
this weeklong festival which culminated in the Saturday night vigil
on August 20th and a papal mass celebrated at Marienfeld outside Cologne
early on Sunday morning.
The crowds of young people who thronged to the German city made the
narrow streets around the city’s famous Gothic Cathedral look like
Jones’ Road after the final whistle on All-Ireland Sunday. Flags were
to be seen from every continent and many of the young groups sang
their native songs as they made their way along the streets to attend
the various events which were organised as part of the festival. Not
to be outdone by their European counterparts the young people from
the west gave enthusiastic renditions of the Fields of Athenry and
the Saw Doctors’ “Green and Red of Mayo.” The Mayo colours and the
tricolour were flown proudly by the young people from Castlebar, Kiltimagh,
Westport, Claremorris and Tuam who were really amazed by the event.
For Mandi Munyikwa from the Curragh, Castlebar, the highlight of the event
was the opening ceremonies in the Rhine Energie Stadium which is home
to FC Cologne. Mandi was born in Zimbabwe but has been living in Ireland
for many years. Mandi met some people not only from Zimbabwe but from
countries all over the world at the opening ceremonies. “The colour,
the music and the atmosphere were really impressive and you felt that
you were part of an international event.” These opening ceremonies
were led by Cardinal Meisner and were reminiscent in their colour
and atmosphere of the opening ceremonies for the Special Olympics
in Croke Park in 2002. Liam Connell from Castlebar was a little hesitant
at first about going to Germany. “The event coincided with the Leaving
Cert results coming out and I wasn’t quite sure if I wanted to be
in Germany when the rest of my friends were getting their results
at home.” However, Liam’s feelings about the event changed somewhat
when his name was drawn out of a hat to be one of the young people
on the European boat which accompanied the Papal flotilla of five
boats which sailed up the river Rhine on the Thursday evening. “Getting
so close to the Pope and seeing the thousands of people gathered along
the banks of the river Rhine as the Papal flotilla passed by was the
highlight of the week for me” said Liam who got his results by phone.
Another member of the group whose name was drawn to travel on the
Papal flotilla was Knockmore native, Kieran Gardiner. Kieran was not
a man to be phased by the experience and was happy chatting and sharing
jokes with the likes of Cardinal Cormac Murphy O Connor of Westminster
and Cardinal Martini of Milan who were fellow passengers with Kieran
on the European Boat.
The young people from Mayo and Galway were guests of the Parish of
St. Theodore in the Hovi district of Cologne. The group had the use
a local school gym and slept on the floor alongside sixty other young
people who were visiting for World Youth Day. This years’ gathering
was the twentieth in the series which was begun back in 1985 by the
late John Paul II as part of a movement to foster faith in young adults.
The theme of this years’ gathering was “We have come to worship him.”
These words were spoken by the three wise men as they visited the
child Jesus in Bethlehem. The relics of the three wise men are said
to be contained in Cologne’s Cathedral.
The organisation of the World Youth Day celebration was a great logistical
nightmare for the city authorities and the efficiency for which the
German’s are renowned was in evidence throughout most of the event.
However, the city’s transport system ground to a halt on a number
of occasions during the festival as the volume of passengers saturated
the city’s transport system. The sheer scale of the event and the
numbers attending was what impressed Shane Mullins from Snugboro.
Shane is a fifth year student at St. Geralds College, Castlebar and
felt that the Saturday night gathering at Marienfeld with Benedict
XVI was the highlight of the week. Over one million people arrived
at the venue on Saturday afternoon and stayed in the open air all
through the night. A heavy dew and damp conditions did not diminish
the spirits of the young people who continued to sing well into the
night. The gathering culminated in the Papal mass which was televised
live on Sunday morning. In the lead up to the vigil there was a great
variety of musical acts which included Moya Brennan from Ireland.
The Saturday night vigil also marked the highlight of the week for
David Canavan from Breaffy. “There was a great international atmosphere
there and an air of expectation” according to David who is a second
year student in the University of Limerick. Young people from every
continent got together to sing, dance, pray and celebrate a common
aspect of each of their lives, namely their faith.
The group arrived back home looking forward to sleeping in a comfortable
bed again and grateful for the experience of World Youth Day 2005.
to Fr. Pat Farragher for the article.