The Holy See Search





I. The significance of the Apostolic Journey

Germany, the host country of the XX World Youth Day

The XX World Youth Day is the last such event to which we were invited by our unforgotten Pope John Paul II, and the first to be celebrated by our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI together with the youth of the world. In recent years, an increasing number of young World Youth Day pilgrims have come from Germany; this year, it is Germany’s turn to host the youth of the world.

Throughout history Christianity has played an important role in Germany, since the 4th century within the borders on the Roman Empire and later also through the missionary activities of Irish and Scottish wandering monks in the 6th and 7th centuries.

However, Germany is also still marked by the division of the Church after the Reformation in the 16th century. Its Christian population is approximately half Catholic, half Protestant.

In the 20th century, the country experienced two World Wars Between 1933 and 1945 it was in the grip of the Nazi regime. In 1949 the western part of the country became the democratic Federal Republic of Germany, while its eastern regions became the German Democratic Republic, a Communist regime.

Political upheavals in the East, which culminated in the fall of the Berlin Wall, brought about a reunification of the two parts of Germany which formed a democratic state in 1990.

During the 1950s and 60s, a large number of so-called Gastarbeiter (guest workers) from South and South-Eastern Europe came to Germany, many of whom are now third-generation residents.

Besides the Catholic Southern Europeans, many Turkish citizens came to work in Germany who today account for the considerable proportion of Muslim inhabitants in the cities. They were joined by immigrants from Eastern Europe and, more recently, Asia and Africa.

Against this social backdrop, ecumenism, the dialog with other religions and cultures, integration, and efforts to maintain a harmonious social atmosphere are important challenges for the Church in Germany.

While the Constitution and Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany reflect our Christian heritage, we are witnessing a continuing trend towards secularization. Due to its Communist heritage, in the East of Germany the proportion of Christians is less than 20%. The vast majority of Eastern Germans are not baptized and have not heard the message of Christianity.

All the more important, then, is the motto of the XX World Youth Day—“We have come to worship Him”— which, contrary to the signs of the time—the tendency to see man as the absolute—places God in the center and makes Him the goal of all human effort. World Youth Day is a way to bear witness of Jesus Christ, the rock on which young people build their “future and a world of greater justice and solidarity” (Message on the occasion of the XX World Youth Day, no. 5). This is where the challenge comes to bear of the Ecumenical efforts of Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox Christians to be witnesses of the Gospel in Germany, a European Union Member State, and send the Christian message out into Europe.

The XX World Youth Day can be an important driver of this movement among the younger generation.

Located on the northern border of the Roman Empire, Cologne acquired Roman city rights around 50 AD and was the capital of the province of Germania Inferior, or Lower Germany. The Archdiocese of Cologne is Germany’s second-oldest diocese after Trier. The first Bishop of Cologne to be documented (313) was Saint Maternus. There is evidence that Christian Roman soldiers were martyred in Cologne and Bonn even before that time. Their resting places are worshipped until this day. The relics of the three Wise Men were brought to Cologne during the 12th century, making Cologne one of the most important Christian pilgrimage destinations of the Middle Ages. The Wise Men from the East, whose remains are today kept in the golden shrine in Cologne Cathedral, gave the XX World Youth Day its motto.

The legendary Rhineland joyousness, together with its hearty hospitality, make the Cologne Archdiocese and its residents glad hosts for the young people who have come for the XX World Youth Day.

The Motto

The motto of the XX World Youth Day, “We have come to worship Him”, summarizes the whole story of the Wise Men from the East and gives guidance to all those young pilgrims who have come to Cologne to celebrate World Youth Day. The Three Kings are the spiritual guides on their pilgrimage. Just like the Wise Men were called by the star and led by their yearning on a journey towards Christ, the young pilgrims have traveled here to search for and find Christ. Like the Wise Men who lost their star, young people may also experience the loss of guidance and orientation.

The Wise Men find the King they are looking for in the child in the stable at Bethlehem. The pilgrims can discover Jesus Christ, the King of their lives, at World Youth Day.

The Wise Men fall to their knees and worship Jesus. The pilgrims are invited to follow suit on their pilgrimage, in prayers, and during services of worship. This is where they find their true identity and liberate themselves of all wrong claims and dependencies on this world. By encountering Christ in worship their reverence for their fellow humans will grow. “Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another.” (1 J n4:11).

“Be worshippers of the only true God, giving Him pride of place in your lives!” is John Paul II’s appeal to the youth of the world in his XX World Youth Day message, adding, “Worshipping the true God is an authentic act of resistance to all forms of idolatry. Worship Christ.” (no. 5). Pope Benedict XVI continues, “Do not be afraid of Christ! He takes nothing away, and he gives you everything. When we give ourselves to him, we receive a hundredfold in return. Yes, open, open wide the doors to Christ—and you will find true life.” (Inaugural sermon on April 24, 2005).

Just like the Wise Men return to their country by another way, the young pilgrims will return home transformed. “This change of route can symbolize the conversion to which all those who encounter Jesus are called, in order to become the true worshippers that He desires.” (XX World Youth Day message, no. 6).

II. The Missal for the Apostolic Journey

The liturgical services at World Youth Day are at the heart of the entire event.

As is customary on journeys undertaken by the Holy Father, the Ufficio delle Celebrazioni Liturgiche del Sommo Pontefice has published a special Missal for this Apostolic Journey in cooperation with those responsible for the liturgy in Cologne.

The Missal contains the texts and subjects of the three services of worship that will be led by the Pope:

  • The Welcome Ceremony for the Holy Father,

  • The celebration of Vespers with the seminarians

  • the Vigil,

  • the Concluding Holy Mass.

The Missal also contains the visit of the Holy Father in the Synagogue.

The Welcome Ceremony for the Holy Father – Thursday, August 18, 2005

”Where is the child who has been born King of the Jews?” (Mt 2:2a) Traveling together to see Him.—Thus is the motto of the Welcome Ceremony for the Holy Father.

In his message on the occasion of XX World Youth Day 2005, John Paul II writes: “The Magi found Jesus at ‘Bêth-lehem’ which means ‘house of bread’. In the humble stable in Bethlehem on some straw lay the ’grain of wheat’ who, by dying, would bring forth ‘much fruit’ (cf. Jn 12:24)... Faithfully pursuing the path of our Redeemer from the poverty of the Crib to His abandonment on the Cross we can better understand the mystery of His love which redeems humanity” (no. 3). During the Ceremony we welcome the Holy Father and ask him to spread among us the Word of God. He leads our pilgrimage to Jesus Christ. We celebrate this festival of faith with him. Young pilgrims report to him what they have experienced so far during World Youth Day and bear witness of their encounters during the Day of Social Service. We see Jesus Christ in the poor and the suffering. He calls upon us to be builders of a new civilization of love and justice.

The celebration of Vespers with the seminarians – Friday, August 19, 2005

When the Holy Father meets with the seminarians from all over the world, he wants to encourage them in seeking God’s will and strengthen them in their vocation. He will pray the Vespers with them. According to the tradition of the Church, Vespers and Lauds are “the two hinges on which the daily office turns”. (Vatican Council II, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy “Sacrosanctum Concilium”, N 89a).

United in prayer, the Holy Father and the seminarians will discharge the priestly tasks which Jesus Christ has entrusted to the Church: “which is ceaselessly engaged in praising the Lord and interceding for the salvation of the whole world. She does this, not only by celebrating the Eucharist, but also in other ways, especially by praying the divine office”. (SC N 83).

The Vigil – Saturday, August 20, 2005

A “Cathedral for one day” will be built for the XX World Youth Day. The 27 illuminated columns at the western end of the site represent Germany’s 27 dioceses. Young pilgrims from all over the world will build this Cathedral on Saturday afternoon, lighting more than 12,000 candles that will illuminate the hill and the processional route. They will set up the altar on the hill and erect the World Youth Day Cross and Icon.

“On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage.” (Mt 2:11). Worshipping Him. - Thus is the motto of the Vigil.

In his XX World Youth Day message, John Paul II writes: “‘They fell down and worshipped Him’ (Mt 2:11). While the Magi acknowledged and worshipped the baby that Mary cradled in her arms as the One awaited by the nations and foretold by prophets, today we can also worship Him in the Eucharist, and acknowledge Him as our Creator, our only Lord and Savior... Be worshippers of the only true God, giving Him pride of place in your lives!“

The Vigil consists of the following elements: Praise of God, the Proclamation, the Ave Maria, the Service of Light, and the worship of the Eucharist. As the Cross is carried up to the altar, we contemplate Jesus’ suffering; as the Icon of Our Lady passes by us, we contemplate the anguish of the Mother of God. During the Service of Light we are reminded of Jesus Christ who came as the Light of the World. During the Eucharist, we worship Him as the Resurrected who comes to us as the Bread of Life.

The Holy Mass concluding the XX World Youth Day- Sunday, August 21, 2005

“And they left for their own country by another road” (Mt 2:12b) - Gifted by Him and sent down to Earth. Thus is the motto of the Concluding Mass.

In his World Youth Day message, John Paul II writes: “The Child, laid by Mary in the manger, is the Man-God we shall see nailed to the Cross. The same Redeemer is present in the sacrament of the Eucharist ...The Mass then becomes a truly loving encounter with the One who gave himself wholly for us. Do not hesitate, my dear young friends, to respond to Him when He invites you ‘to the wedding feast of the Lamb’ (cf. Rev 19:9).”

We celebrate the fact that the Cross has become a symbol of redemption through Jesus Christ. Like the Three Kings who followed the star, we follow the illuminated Cross. These symbols are replicated on the liturgical vestments that were designed and made for the XX World Youth Day: the chasubles display a vertical line on the front and a horizontal one on the reverse side. Both symbolize a path and are bright yellow. When the priests clasp their hands, the lines combine to form a cross of light. The priests subject themselves to the ’mystery of the Cross’, as the consecration liturgy says. Together with the community of the baptized they take the Cross on a journey so that all of humanity may see it as the sign of light that is celebrated by the Church and followed by all Christians.

During this celebration, the established Missa mundi will be placed in a new musical context. The individual elements of the Mass will reflect the continents musically.

III. Outlook

This “Missal” supports the Apostolic Journey of the Holy Father during the XX World Youth Day. It was prepared by the “and provides a profound impression of the significance of pilgrimage to Jesus Christ, the One the Three Wise Men sought, found and worshiped. World Youth Day is like any ‘pilgrimage of the nations’. People from all over the world have come together to seek, find and worship the Lord who became Man, died and rose from the dead. People set off to encounter this Lord through the Church in word, in the Sacrament and through other people. May the young people from Germany and from all over the world return to their country changed by this encounter with Jesus Christ as the Three Kings and proclaim’.” (Mt 2:2).