23/08/05 World Youth Day: Some reflections of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin

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Some reflections of Archbishop Diarmuid Martin——————————
There are two great heroes of World Youth Day: the Pope and the young people.  Both were marvellous in Cologne.
Cologne was the first World Youth Day that I really attended.  I was in Rome for World Youth Day 2000, but my participation was limited on that occasion to an “after work” task in the midst of a busy schedule.  Cologne was different.
Cologne was a first for Pope Benedict XVI.  He showed that he has his own style with young people, bringing a profound message delivered in calm simple tones.  He is obviously a much more reserved person than Pope John Paul II.  The young people in Cologne had no difficulty in adapting to his style and they responded with great warmth and affection.
The Pope was clearly moved by the experience. As a rather shy person, you could see that he was slightly bemused at the cries of his own name “Benedetto”.   It was clear however that he wanted the young people to focus not on him as a person, but on Jesus Christ.  Who could not be impressed by those moments when he presided over one million young people in profound silence, in prayer and in adoration?
Just before entering the Vigil ceremony on Saturday afternoon, Pope Benedict met with the about 700 bishops.  It was an extraordinarily warm and relaxed meeting at which he spoke off the cuff and exchanged comments with some of those present.    With the same kindly smile and tone that I had known over many years in Rome, he asked me about how I felt now being back in Dublin and I could see his clear interest in knowing what was happening in the Irish Church.
Pope Benedict spoke to the bishops about their responsibility as shepherds and pastors to young people.   Indeed, my strongest memory is that of the various catechesis sessions with the young people.  It was a wonderful and all too rare occasion to engage directly with young people on questions of faith.
At my first catechesis, in which may Irish were present, so many questions were given to me that I did not even have time to read them there and then.   After answering as many specific questions as could in the limited time, I resolved that the best thing I could do was to take time on my return and send a written reply to the questions in the form of a letter to young people.  I will post the letter on the internet and hopefully the dialogue begun in Cologne will continue in the future.
As a Bishop, my encounters with young people are very often fleeting.  World Youth Day was certainly an occasion for me to have time with the young people I met from all over the world.  I was inspired by their enthusiasm, by the depth of their faith, by the honesty of the questioning and above all by their desire to know more about Jesus Christ and His message and how to live it in our times.
I came home exhausted, but renewed in my own mission.   When I greeted the Dublin young people as the buses returned home, I think that I could sum up their feelings in almost the same terms:  exhausted but renewed in their commitment to Jesus Christ and the Church.  That is what makes World Youth Day unique.  Our thanks to Pope Benedict and to the young people who gathered in Cologne!