Cardinal Meisner's Hopes for World Youth Day

«Perhaps a New Mother Teresa Will Be Born»

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COLOGNE, Germany, JAN. 11, 2005 ( Cardinal Joachim Meisner, the archbishop of Cologne, hopes that from the forthcoming World Youth Day will emerge «many new evangelizers.»

This German city expects at least 800,000 young people to attend the Youth Day. Already, 135,000 youths have registered, not counting the Germans.

From Jan. 6-9, about 250 delegates of the episcopal conferences and movements of 70 countries met locally to attend a conference organized by the Pontifical Council for the Laity in view of the forthcoming Youth Day.

On the eve of the meeting, Cardinal Meisner spoke to the press about the dimension World Youth Day has acquired, the Italian newspaper Avvenire reported.

Q: Eminence, there are less than eight months to go for the meeting of the Pope and young people. How are preparations going?

Cardinal Meisner: I had expressed to the Holy Father our willingness to host the WYD since 1999. Then Rome and Toronto took place. And now it is our turn.

I trust in God and also in my collaborators, and I am at peace that all will go well. Germany was the cause of two disastrous wars in the 20th century. We hope that in the 21st it will be precisely from Germany that a strong example of peace will be given. And the WYD is inserted in this plan.

Q: Have German young people welcomed the message?

Cardinal Meisner: I think so. And not only those of our parishes, but also those who are «fallen away.» The media has spoken much about the Day. And I am surprised to see that everyone already knows what it is about.

In Westphalia, where they tried, without success, to organize the Olympics, I was told: «We lost the Games, but have obtained a more important event.»

Q: Is it also a sign for Old Europe, which is forgetting its own Christian roots?

Cardinal Meisner: We are witnessing Europe’s loss of culture. I am thinking of the Buttiglione case. If we applied the same parameters, today neither De Gasperi nor Adenauer nor Schuman, namely, the Founding Fathers of the Union, would succeed in being European Commissioners.

The truth is that we often neglect the essence of things. For example: Why did God not create all of us men or women? There is an essential message for humanity in this difference. That is, that in the order of creation homosexuality does not exist but diversity.

Man and woman, united in their love, constitute the family and found the society. It is a message that stems from the essence of things. Therefore, only if we are able to rediscover this depth of being, will Europe and the whole world have a future. So I hope that from WYD great stimulation will come in this direction.

Q: After the tsunami, which has also affected Germany, how will things change in preparation for Cologne 2005?

Cardinal Meisner: What happened is a great tragedy. I have also prayed to the Lord: «Help me to understand with the eyes of faith.» But our young people can also be helped by the WYD theme, «We Have Come to Worship Him.» The Wise Men came from the East. So the East is already inscribed in the genetic patrimony of WYD.

We must help those peoples and we are already doing so. Last January 1 all German churches gave their Mass collections to the victims of Southeast Asia. Large organizations such as Adveniat and Misereor are already working there. And there is an aid fund for the catastrophe.

Q: In all the countries where the Day has been held, there has been a positive effect on youth pastoral care. And in Germany?

Cardinal Meisner: We have created 3,300 operative centers of youths between the ages of 16 to 30 years. After a year of catechesis, they are now busy with the organization. And the priests tell me: «If due to an absurdity WYD were not to be held, these 3,300 groups would already be a great result.»

But the most beautiful thing is that the Day is becoming an environment open to all, where Christ speaks to young people and where each youth can find Christ.

I hope that from this meeting perhaps a new Mother Teresa of Calcutta will be born, a new St. John Bosco, many new evangelizers.

Q: And from the ecumenical point of view?

Cardinal Meisner: We have very good relations with the evangelical communities in Germany and also with the Orthodox. All have expressed their willingness to host ecumenical meetings — there will be three, in Bonn, Dusseldorf and Cologne — to welcome WYD young people in their homes, and to make available places for catecheses in the different languages. We have even heard of such readiness by Muslim communities.

Q: How will you cover the event’s expenses?

Cardinal Meisner: It is obvious that the financial burden of the World Day and the Pope’s visit cannot be borne only by our diocese, but will involve the other German dioceses.

We must finance ourselves by making a great creative effort, but I am sure we will be able to do so, without leaving debts.

The Pontifical Council for the Laity believes, with good reason, that, to have a future, World Youth Days must be financially sustainable events.

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