Letter from Cologne


Jo Siedlecka from the Catholic Communications Network is accompanying the Catholic Youth Service at World Youth Day.

This is the first in a series of her reports.

The Rhineland is a sea of young people waving flags, carrying rucksacks, singing and cheering. Every church hall and school has become a hostel, every café and bar a venue for catecheses, prayer, music and theatre events. More than 450,000 pilgrims from all corners of the globe are here for what is turning out to be the largest World Youth Day ever.

Traffic came to a standstill on Tuesday as three huge welcoming Masses were held in Cologne, Dusseldorf and Bonn.

Many of the young people have already been here for the past week, staying with host families and parish groups.

In the Cologne stadium, pilgrims were welcomed by Cardinal Joachim Meisner, the Archbishop of Cologne. During his homiliy he referred several times to the Three Kings, whose relics are kept in Cologne Cathedral, as the first pilgrims in Church history. Amidst loud cheers and applause he told the young people: “ You are following in their footsteps.”

Federal president Horst Koghler also spoke in the stadium. He said: “We can only create and maintain peace in the world together and only together can we see that justice is upheld and our environment protected."

Around 100,000 pilgrims assembled in the Hoffgarten in Bonn and over 50,000 gathered in the Arena in Dusseldorf. At the Arena, several thousand were still arriving on foot, by train and car after all seats had been filled. Some sat in the in fields nearby listening to the service on loudspeakers.

Yesterday, it seemed that many more thousands of pilgrims had arrived as the roads and trains were even more crowded and most events overflowing with people.

The CYS team set out at 6.30 am for the church of St Theodor in Koln-Vingst which was attended by pilgrims from Liverpool, Canada, the USA, Cambodia and Australia. A music group from Liverpool, with leader Jenny Sparrow, lead the music throughout the morning.

Some of the singers and musicians came from Liverpool’s Animate group, which sings at a monthly youth Mass in the diocese. The German altar girls were fascinated as the English contingient accompanied some of the music with hand movements and clapping.

Morning Reflection at Koln-Vingst presented by Liverpool Diocese.

Faith is like a star. It is a gentle light, a lesser light from time obscured by clouds, and not always as bright as the traveler might wish.

It is in no way as good as the sun, but it is enough each day to be able to see perhaps just one step ahead.

Faith is a small light but a very important one. Vision is like the sun. Nothing can hide from the midday sun, everything is revealed.

So it will be when we see God face to face in vision. But now it is faith, and vision is something for the future and to which we look forward to with anticipation.

If you follow the star of Bethlehem you will find just a child in the manger, or so it might seem. But now it is faith which is enables us to know that this child is truly God as well as truly man, not that we can se it clearly.

Faith is a lesser light but enough, and it is a light given by God, a special gift, his most important to us.So as well travel through life we have the star to guide us, and we look for God and the will of God in everyday things, in persons and in many other things.

We might have seen the child and missed the point – that he is also God. Equally we can go through life meeting people, loving people, and also miss the point.

We can see only with our physical eyes, so we have to let that little light which is faith, guide us to God, who is, in some wonderful manner, within all things.

If we look for him every day in our present situation in this life, we will most certainly find him. This is our ultimate expectation.

For more information contact Jo Siedlecka on 07720 810 479