The pilgrims come from 11 European countries. The biggest contingent — 16,000 — is from Germany.
Coetus Internationalis Ministrantium of Freiburg, Germany, is organizing the initiative. Auxiliary Bishop Martin Gächter of Basel is leading the pilgrimage.
Father Giuseppe Busani, who oversees the 1,000-strong Italian delegation, explained the large German presence: “The principal reason is that in that country it is a more articulated and structured experience. In fact, the majority of German altar servers are youths: They are neither pre-adolescents nor children.”
The second-largest contingent is from Hungary, with 2,000 altar servers.
There were no altar servers from Spain or France, which Father Busani attributed to a lack of organization rather than a lack of interest in the liturgy.
The highlight of the pilgrimage takes place Wednesday, when the altar servers meet with John Paul II.
Father Busani said he believes that altar servers, even when they are children, make the liturgy “less static, more alive, with actions, gestures and songs.”