Taizé Ecumenical Community Gathers 80,000 Youths in Barcelona

Focus on Prayer

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BARCELONA, JAN. 1, 2001 (ZENIT.org).- The 23rd European Meeting of Youth, organized by the Ecumenical Community of Taizé, ended in Barcelona today. This year it gathered 80,000 pilgrims and was held over 5 days.

The participants bid one another farewell after the final Mass and a New Year´s dinner with their host families.

The end result is very positive, not only for the youth who attended, but also for the local Church (over 300 parishes mobilized for the event), and for persons, some of whom had left the faith, who hosted these youth from all over Europe. The young people only asked for space to be able to open their sleeping bags.

50,000 of the youth came from outside of Spain. 35,000 were from Eastern European countries, primarily Poland, Rumania, Russia, Croatia, Lithuania, Ukraine, and Yugoslavia; many of them were Orthodox. The participants also included 7,000 Italians and 4,000 Austrians, Germans, and Swiss.

The government of Catalonia, local municipalities, armed forces, and labor unions did everything possible to make this 23rd Taizé meeting a genuine continental pilgrimage.

The most obvious fruit was seen by Catalans themselves over these days. The large number of youths was impressive, and they brought marked cultural differences and various Christian confessions, yet came together to pray in total simplicity, accepting any difficulties encountered with a smile. This attitude alone called for reflection by Christians and non-Christians alike.

French and Spanish television transmitted the Mass for the youth celebrated in several languages on December 31.

John Paul II sent a message to the meeting, addressed to Brother Roger, founder of the Ecumenical Community of Taizé, in which he encouraged youth to «spread generously, with the enthusiasm that characterizes them, the evangelical climate experienced during the World Youth Days.»

«At the dawn of the Third Millennium, may the ways of dialogue, fraternity, and prayer constitute the intrepid response of youth to help bring forth that spring of life, reconciliation, and salvation ardently desired by Christ,» continued the message.

Cardinal Ricardo Maria Carles, Archbishop of Barcelona, who welcomed the event, took part in some of the most important moments of the meeting, as did Abbot Josep Maria Soler of Montserrat.

Leaders of other Churches and Christian communities also sent messages to this meeting, including Bartholomew I, Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople; Alexy II, Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow; and Archbishop George Carey of Canterbury, Primate of the Anglican Church.

Jordi Pujol, president of the Generalate of Catalonia, participated in one of the prayer meetings. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan sent a special message, as did Romano Prodi, President of the European Commission.

The Ecumenical Community of Taizé leads the «Pilgrimage of Trust on Earth,» to support these youths, but without gathering them into a movement. Every year, Brother Roger writes a letter to youth for this event, which is translated into 60 languages.

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