World Youth Day 2005

Germany - Part 2

These entries were posted live from the trip and are listed chronologically.

Unless otherwise noted, all photos on these pages are by Brandon A. Evans, © The Criterion


Day 9 -- The pope arrives

This was the big day, or at least one of them.

Before I get to the great details of our afternoon in anticipation of the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI on his first foreign visit, a few details about our morning. We had our second catechesis session this morning -- it pretty much worked the same as yesterday, except with another guest speaker.

This time it was English Bishop Kevin McDonald, who was celebrating his birthday today. The theme of his address was meeting Jesus Christ in the Eucharist.

He told the youth that World Youth Day would be an event they would always remember. It would be a “stopping point” in the journey of their life, and hopefully a significant one.

Mass is another stopping point, he said—it is a watering spot where we come to get to know Jesus Christ more deeply. In that sense, he said, it is good for this World Youth Day to be situated in the Year of the Eucharist. The Eucharist is a place of meeting, Bishop McDonald said. It gives us access to “real, solid life.”

Only Jesus Christ is the solid foundation and the source of life—with the unpredictable nature of life, only Christ will survive all things, including death.

After Bishop McDonald celebrated Mass, our archdiocesan pilgrims hurried outside to get their lunchs from the World Youth Day organization (actually our seminarians took our tickets and ran to get the food). After a very quick lunch, most of the group ran, quite literally, to catch the train from Neuss to Cologne. The rest of the group either went back to their hotels, out touring or to a television to watch coverage of the pope's arrival.

The group I was with -- the good group, of course -- decided to brave the crowds of Cologne, even after the difficulties a few days ago, to get our place along the streets where the pope would be driving so as to catch a glimpse of him.

We arrived at about 1 p.m. in Cologne and it was nearly 8 p.m. before Pope Benedict XVI drove from the Cologne Cathedral to the Cardinal's residence. In the time between, which incidently flew by, we pretty much sat on the the curb (or stood) behind metal fences and waited. We did wait in style though, as all the youth were wearing shirts provided by the archdiocese that said on the front "I love my German shepherds" on the back had a picture of the new pope and Archbishop Buechlein (who are both Bavarian Germans).

The spot we found was pretty much a miracle spot. The best we had been able to do was a spot a few blocks from the Cathedral where we had a second row of places reserved behind a group from Highland, Illinois (near St. Louis). They had gotten their front row by showing up at 11 a.m.

Suddenly, Father Jonathan Meyer, who led our excursion, showed up and said the seminarians had found a whole area from very few people were gathered. Sure enough, on one narrow street along the pope's relatively short course was about a hundred feet of waste-high metal fencing that no one was standing along. Keep in mind that by this point all the other places along the streets were packed with people.

So there we waited, taking turns to run out on bathroom breaks or to get food. We sat, we talked, we wound ourselves up tighter than a 13-hour clock. A nearby German band started playing a lot of American hits and it had the thousands of people who came unto our little street dancing. A woman hung out of her apartment and lowered a rope down to collect the pins that eager pilgrims were trying to give her. Youth bearing flags of all different countries ran up and down the empty street (with people gathered on either curb) garnering cheers for their country -- until the German polizei got them to get back over the fencing. And each time an American group passed us it was a miniature event and a chance to briefly bond over our shared homeland. Peope climbed up parts of buildings and unto streetlights and the streets looked as though as wildly diverse festival was going on.

By 7 p.m. we were almost paranoid. Everytime a police motorcycle came around the corner we jumped a bit, and cameras snapped into focus. We were obsessively watching a cameraman on a local roof to see when he started shooting footage.

Then, it all started to come into place. The music from the band stopped. A few nearby Germans on cell phones got calls relating to the "Papst." One of the cops patrolling the street nodded to another cop and gave him a signal like he was driving a car. But then, more minutes of silence. More anticipation. More excitement. The crowd began clapping and chanting "Bene-detto!"

Then, at the end of our street, where it took a left turn, the camera flashes started going off. A dozen uniformed officers came around the corner, followed by fancy cars. Then the unmistakable popemobile came into view. With moments it was right up to us -- the pope was literally ten feet from us. When he came by me, he was turned to the other side of the road waving, but other pilgrims reported being waved at -- even being looked in the eye. It is a moment that will surely stay with them for the rest of their lives.

And then, just like that, he was past us and it was over. In honesty, I can't remember much of the moment except trying (in vain) to get a good picture. With the glass bubble over the top, the glare ruined almost every shot. But the word is that some kids got some good pictures, so maybe I'll borrow from them!

But as the excitement swept over us and left us tired (and hungry and thirsty) for our long walk and train ride home, there was still a certain lingering excitement that our time with the pope was just beginning. Though we won't be that close to him again, Saturday night will be spent with Pope Benedict at a prayer vigil in Marenfeld (just outside of Cologne), where the pilgrims will spend the night and then get up for a closing Mass with him the next morning before departing for home.

Tomorrow our catechesis is replaced with a pilgrimage walk along the Rhine River and a tour of the famous Cologne Cathedral.

See you then! As usual, pictures below.

Photos - Second catechesis session:



Photos - The pope's arrival:







Posted by Brandon A. Evans at 2:22 a.m. on August 19, 2005 in Duesseldorf, Germany

Day 10 -- Cologne Cathedral

Instead of our normal catechesis today, the only thing on our schedule was a special pilgrimage walk along the Rhine River and a tour of the Cathedral in Cologne. The Cathedral houses the relics of the three Magi, and the idea was that this pilgrimage pulls together the theme of "following the star" to the House of God and to the tomb of those who searched for him 2,000 years ago.

Unfortunately, besides an outbreak of rain that I think effectively scattered the group, my wife and I had to leave everyone to go get our official press credentials (an adventure that took several hours). So, sadly, I don't have any pictures of the young people today, though I don't think there was much to take pictures of.

In fact, when I finally got over the Cathedral, the line to get in was so long -- and I've apparently caught a small cold -- that I chose to not wait. I got some pictures of the outside, and of the massive crowds gathered there, but that's all. I'll post what I have for you to enjoy. The crowds were so out of control that it took more than an hour at the train station just to cram into a doorway on the train to get back to our Duesseldorf hotel. The souvenir shops in the area of the Cathedral were so full that only a person or two at a time was allowed to go in the already packed store.

Important note: Keep in mind that tomorrow morning the big event of World Youth Day begins and my ability to update this weblog temporarily ends until, at the earliest, Sunday night (Sunday afternoon back home. Tomorrow we are leaving our hotel early in the morning to be bused to Marienfeld, a large field outside of Cologne. We we join, most likely, more than one million pilgrims who will stake their spot throughout the day and camp through the night. The pope will join us tomorrow night for a prayer vigil, and the next morning (Sunday) for a Mass.

Right after the Mass -- right after -- we are leaving to catch flights to Paris for an overnight layover (and hopefully a relaxing night on the town). At that point, perhaps, I may be able to update the site. Keep in mind that there is a chance that I will be able to update from the special press area at Marenfield. Check back occasionally with us to see.

That leads to one bit of good news, at least for me! Out of more than 5,000 journalists, my name was drawn in a press pool along with about 150 others to be allowed access into the press photography platform during the closing Mass. The platform is situated within the very front section in the field. Besides my name, only a few other Americans were chosen, and certainly no other diocesan reporters. This will give me the best chance for papal photographs that I could ask for, even if it is still set back a bit.

So, even while a bit sick tonight, I'm extremely excited about the next two days. There should be loads of photos of the youth and hopefully we'll all survive the experience and make our flights. Please pray for us, and I'll see you on the other side of the chaos!

Photos - Cologne Cathedral:




Posted by Brandon A. Evans at 10:19 p.m. on August 19, 2005 in Duesseldorf, Germany

Day 11 -- Live from Marienfeld!

Thanks to those press credentials that I snagged yesterday I found access to a press Internet station. I won't waste too much on words (my battery time is limited on my laptop). Things are, well, chaotic, but it's a good chaos. And we are in Germany, so it's an organized chaos.

Our bus dropped us off about three miles from the massive field (called Marienfeld) outside of the city of Cologne. I suppose they are expecting at least a million people to converge on this field in the coming hours. Right now a European band is playing music and our pilgrims are keeping themselves busy with card games, journaling and sleeping. Tonight Pope Benedict XVI will arrive to conduct a prayer vigil. He'll then take off for a while to let us sleep, then return in the morning for Mass.

There are rows and rows of port-a-potties -- literally a city of them. A gigantic "bag" the size of a Hummer has been filled with drinking water and tapped for the pilgrims to use. Food stands are everywhere and makeshift roads and paths have carved the field into nice pieces. While we're pretty far away from the altar, at least we can see it -- many, many people are much farther back than we are.

The people are still pouring in, and will be for some time. Enough words -- here are some pictures.

Photos - Live from the Field:




Posted by Brandon A. Evans at 2:30 p.m. on August 20, 2005 outside of Cologne, Germany

Day 11 -- More from Marienfeld

Below I've posted some more photos from Marienfeld, particularly of the prayer vigil conducted by Pope Benedict XVI, which included scripture, song, an address from the Holy Father and eucharistic adoration, all atop the massive "altar hill" built just for this occasion.

It is actually "Day 12" of our trip, and two of our three groups have made it out of Germany and are staying in our hotels in France. The other group is driving to Munich, Germany, tonight and flying home tomorrow. It will probably be when I get back before I can post the pictures from the vigil Mass, and the accompanying news.

Keep checking this site even when the pilgrims have returned home for videos and other updates (especially about how we may be able to give away or sell CDs of the photos taken during the tour).

Photos - More from the Field:




Photos - Prayer Vigil:



Posted by Brandon A. Evans at 8:37 p.m. on August 21, 2005 in Paris, France

Day 12 -- Closing Mass

Today's event is the big one, the one that people go to World Youth Day to participate in: a Mass in Marienfeld with Pope Benedict XVI.

After leaving the previous night after the prayer vigil, the pope returned around 10 o'clock and drive through part of the crowds on his infamous popemobile. He then ascended to the top of the small mountain that served as an altar and sanctuary -- as did a long train of bishops. My press seat was great, but even close isn't close -- I was surrounded by journalists with huge telescopic lens. My pictures still show the pope very small (though he is visible -- our group's spot in section B-7 could see the altar hill but not the pope). I shot pictures in high resolution and you'll see below that there are links to closers images of the pope -- click on the separate links that says "See the pope."

Sadly, because of the nature of our flights, we had to leave the Mass at the homily -- something that became the paramount sacrifice for our pilgrimage group. It was difficult to leave, but by doing so we beat the crowd out and made our flight. When I attended World Youth Day in Rome 2000, it took several hours to even get out of the field.

Once safely in Paris, Father Jonathan Meyer offered Mass for our Cincinnati flight group, and then when the Detroit group got in, he offered Mass for them as well. Recognizing the sacrifice they made in leaving the papal Mass early, Father Meyer comforted the young people by reminding them that in regards to the holiness, dignity and grace-giving capacity of the Mass, that our small Mass inside a tiny conference room in a hotel was no different than a Mass with a million people and the pope.

By the way, newspapers in France are reporting that a million people packed that large field in Germany. That's like creating a small city for a day -- and packing the entire Indianapolis metro area into it. The logistics behind it are mind-boggling.

As I post this, I'm writing from Charles DeGalle Airport in Paris, France (forgive me if I spelled it wrong). This is the final leg of our trip. In a few hours we'll be home in the states, and probably enjoying some well-deserved least until the youth go to school tomorrow. They'll have plenty to talk about what they did this summer.

Photos - Closing Mass:



See the pope              See the pope               See the pope

Photos - Paris hotel Mass:

Posted by Brandon A. Evans at 9:00 a.m. on August 22, 2005 at Charles DeGalle Airport, Paris

Day 13 -- Flying Home

Though I can only account for my group on the Cincinnati flight, I assume now that all the pilgrims are back safely on American soil and busy telling their World Youth Day stories to their families and friends. I've got to say, along with many other pilgrims, it's good to be home -- there's no place quite like it.

Obviously, I don't have a lot in the way of pictures today, but I could go for the 13 day stretch without have at least one photo of our pilgrims leaving Paris and one of them arriving home -- you'll find them below in that order.

For those who have enjoyed this site, there is more to come (see the post above this one)! Also, a sincere thank you to those who made this weblog such a success: it averaged about 1,000 unique visitors each day during the pilgrimage, which is quite high for the website of a diocesan newspaper. We are still working on this website, and hope that you spread the word about all the different things that we have to offer!

Photos - Flying Home:


Posted by Brandon A. Evans at 7:07 p.m. on August 22, 2005 in Avon, Indiana

Before the trip: Pre-Blog

Italy: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5

Germany: Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 | Day 11 | Day 12 | Day 13

(Archive Page 1 | Archive Page 2 | Archive Page 3)

After the trip: Post-Blog


Local site Links: