Pontiff Considers Youth Day Joy "Inexplicable"

Says Event Is Not a Rock Festival Featuring the Pope

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 22, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI says the joy of Youth Days is inexplicable and goes beyond being a mere party. In fact, he says, the youth events bring an understanding of the meaning of true celebration.

The Pope affirmed this today when he had his traditional exchange of Christmas greetings with prelates and members of the Roman Curia. In this annual address, the Holy Father highlights key events of the year; this year he touched on July’s World Youth Day, October’s synod of bishops; and his trips to the United States and France.

Speaking of World Youth Day, he said that from this event «breaks forth a joy that is not comparable to a rock festival.»

«Australia had never seen so many people from all continents as at the World Youth Day — not even during the Olympics,» the Pontiff noted. «And if previously there had been fear that the arrival of a mass of youth could provoke certain problems in public order, stop traffic, obstruct daily life, cause violence and open space for drugs, all of that showed itself to be unfounded.»

Instead, he said, «it was a party of joy — a joy that in the end took up even the unwilling: In the end no one felt annoyed. Those days became a party for everyone.»

And many have attempted to explain this phenomenon, Benedict XVI reflected, but the «particularity of these days and the particular character of their joy, of their ability to create communion, cannot be explained.»

«Popular theories tend to consider these days as a variation of modern youth culture,» he said, «like a type of rock festival modified in an ecclesial sense with the Pope as the star. Even some Catholic voices give this idea. […]

«They are seen as moments of festive excitement, but which in the end leave everything just as before, without a deeper influence in life.»

But the Pope affirmed that this theory misses the mark: «The Pope is not the star around which everything revolves. He is absolutely and only the Vicar. He points to the Other who is in our midst.»


Benedict XVI further noted how World Youth Days are not just a weeklong event, but rather the culmination of a spiritual preparation. They are, he declared, a pilgrimage for the youth, to an encounter with the cross, particularly through the World Youth Day cross and icon that journey from country to country leading up to the youth meeting.

«The encounter with the cross, which is touched and carried, becomes an interior encounter with he who on the cross has died for us,» the Pope said. «The encounter with the cross stirs up in the interior of the youth the presence of this God who has wanted to become man and suffer with us.»

Hence, he affirmed, the Way of the Cross through the streets of Sydney was one of the highlights of the week, along with the «solemn liturgy at the center of the whole, because it is there that what we cannot accomplish is carried out.»

«He is present; he enters in our midst. The heavens have opened and this makes the earth alight. This is what brings joy and openness to life and what unites us with a joy that is incomparable with a rock festival,» the Holy Father added. «According to Scripture, joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit: This fruit was abundantly perceptible during the days of Sydney.»

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