VATICAN CITY, JULY 5, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Security is one the toughest challenges of organizing World Youth Day 2005, an event expected to attract 800,000 young people, says Cardinal Joachim Meisner of Cologne.
During a press conference at Vatican Radio’s headquarters today, the archbishop confirmed that “those who have registered or have paid are about 400,000, but we will leave the office doors open up to the last day to give the possibility to participate. For our part, we can manage up to 2 million people.”
The cardinal said that 7,000 priests and 700 bishops will participate in the event. German families have offered 85,000 lodgings for young people attending.
World Youth Day, scheduled for Aug. 15-21, will close with a vigil and Mass, presided over by Benedict XVI at the Marienfeld, in which an artificial hill has been made with soil from all the continents.
“Cologne has been working for eight years on this event,” said Cardinal Meisner.
According to tradition, the Cologne Cathedral houses the relics of the three Wise Men. The reliquary will be placed behind the altar, as was the custom in the Middle Ages, so that young people can walk under it, taking home a special blessing, as pilgrims did in the past.
Cardinal Meisner explained that the greatest difficulty of the organization is the need to observe “17,000 security norms,” according to German law.
“During World Youth Day 2000 here in Rome, the Italian government suspended these dispositions for 10 days, with a gesture that I consider very humane,” he said.
“We are being obliged to respect these security norms and this has cost us much, as they are very expensive,” the German cardinal said. “The Pope’s present visit costs 10 times more than John Paul II’s first visit to Germany.
“The preparation has been complex from the technical point of view, because of the security dispositions, and from a financial point of view. But now everything has been surmounted.”
Cardinal Meisner made an appeal to World Youth Day participants: “You must come as the Wise Kings. Bring other people with you; don’t come alone. If we gather in his name, Jesus will be among us. We must show the world the face of Christ.”