High Hopes for World Youth Day 2005

Interview With Father Kohn, a Pontifical Council Aide

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ROME, NOV. 17, 2004 (Zenit.org).- World Youth Day 2005 will be an important event especially for «a Europe dominated by a very secularized culture,» says a Vatican organizer.

Father Francis Kohn, the director of the Youth Section of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, adds that the event, planned for Aug. 16-21 in Germany, has ambitious goals.

«We know from experience the great benefits received not only by the Catholic communities but by the whole country, when it is the venue of a WYD,» Father Kohn said as he was interviewed by ZENIT.

Q: What contribution can young people make to the Church?

Father Kohn: Young people enable one to rediscover in the Church an ever-new face. We are talking about young people of great faith and fervor. WYD is a Catholic event because the invitation is made by the Pope, but there is also an «inculturation,» an influence on the local culture.

We have seen that WYD is a great pilgrimage in faith. Our task is to put young people in touch with Christ; to foster a personal encounter, and to provide the occasion for conversion and the rediscovery of the sacraments, especially confession and the Eucharist.

We have seen that catechesis is very important. Today’s young people have a great desire to deepen their faith and have a thirst for the Absolute. They want to know the Truth.

Q: How is catechesis carried out in a WYD?

Father Kohn: Catecheses are imparted by bishops of diverse parts of the world and are central in World Youth Days.

Catecheses, liturgies and cultural meetings of youth from all over the world are a unique opportunity to deepen the faith through different cultures. In WYD, young people discover other ways of living the faith and other ways of experiencing Christian culture.

Q: Why was the German city of Cologne chosen as the venue?

Father Kohn: The choice of Cologne is very important because it is the first time that a World Youth Day is held in the German language. This will be determinant for a new launching of and assistance to the local Church.

Moreover, it is a great opportunity for the European Church to receive new impulse and hope. In addition, there is the possibility to rediscover, without controversies, the Christian roots of Europe. Young people want to learn about their past.

In this context, WYD can be a positive experience and a manifestation in which today’s young people can express their willingness to work for reconciliation and peace.

It can be said that every World Youth Day is like a parable of reconciliation and peace which goes beyond all borders and divisions of culture and language. It is a real, not a theoretical experience.

Q: What is the meaning of the motto «We have come to adore him»?

Father Kohn: There is continuity in the themes chosen. In the last WYD, we reflected on the theme «We wish to see Jesus.» Now, beginning with the wise men of the East, we address the topic «We have come to adore him.» We must remember that the wise men were pagans and came from afar to satiate their thirst for the Absolute, to find Jesus.

The theme was chosen three years ago, long before the Holy Father decided to hold the Year of the Eucharist, and it is therefore an opportunity to help young people meet personally with the Child Jesus, with the rediscovery of the incarnation, with the mystery of the Eucharist and of Eucharistic adoration.

The intention is to show how to live in the world, offering one’s own life and activities for the glory of God and the good of men.

The image of the wise men, who arrive to adore Jesus, is very symbolic, because they were pagans and were seeking the truth free of prejudices. They left their countries without giving thought to securities. They started a long journey following the star, namely, with faith in Providence, and they saw Jesus with their own eyes, in the stable in Bethlehem, and they knelt before him.

This is very important because WYD is open to all, not just to Catholics and Christians but also to young people who don’t have faith and are not baptized. It is the first time in 20 years that the Pope explicitly invites young people who are not baptized, who are far from the Church, to come to Cologne for WYD.

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