Heroes & Goats: WYD 2005
So what if the Americans couldn't eat? Poverty is a virtue -- and Cologne has pulled off the most successful and resonant World Youth Day since Denver opened the modern era of the festivals in 1993. If done right, the celebrations do wonders for the local churches where they've been held, and the fallout of each impacts the lives and work of the churchmen who put them together. If you don't believe that, ask Cardinal Stafford.
Yes, this is a blatant rip from the Philadelphia Weekly, but as the Pope's homecoming tour, the most significant event of his pontificate to date and his first foreign trip comes to a close, this will be the first of (hopefully) many chances to reflect on major events and do some calculus to see who comes out of Cologne better than they went in... and who comes out worse.
- Benedict XVI --Showing the world that rumors of Catholicism's post-Wojtyla demise are greatly unfounded, the late Pope's "first collaborator" also proved that an event constructed for John Paul does not necessarily mean that it has to be The John Paul Show. With his subtle touches of intimacy, communicable depth and serene graciousness all around, Joseph Ratzinger has put his unique stamp on the papacy and marked out a humbler image of the servant of the servants of God. While respecting the exigencies of the modern papacy, B16 has demonstrated that he will do it his way -- and Cologne has been evidence to the doubtful that his way works. Having used the low expectations at his election to his advantage, at this point he can do no wrong. Hell, he even got Trads to attend a Novus Ordo closing liturgy without causing a riot... They might just convert to Catholicism yet.
- Cardinal Joachim Meisner, archbishop of Cologne -- The most conservative of the German cardinal-archbishops and the closest of them to Ratzinger -- he spoke of his own weeping as the final ballot of the conclave was being counted -- Meisner now has an elevated status in the wider church thanks to the exposure his archdiocese received. Keep an eye on how he uses it.
- Bishop Josef Clemens, secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity -- This latest battle in the War of the Ratzinger Secretaries has yielded a decisive victory for the one who spent two decades at his Prefect's side. As the Vatican point-man dealing with the deep details of every element of the World Youth Day celebration, Clemens knew what his boss would want to keep from the pre-April plans and what to change to better suit B16's temperament, gait and sense of the resonant -- and such is his place in the papal orbit that no one was in a position to challenge his decisions. In a very telling moment at the airport before the Pope got on the plane, Benedict spent about three seconds with each of the gathered prelates who lined the runway to bid him a safe trip. Clemens got about 10 times that. The Pope could've bantered with him forever -- and everyone waiting by the plane knew it. Combined with the Pope's noting Clemens' "able assistance" to Rylko at the close of the morning mass, it was a Ratzi way of saying that a Pope's man doesn't always need to be in the camera frame to be an effective and eminent counsel and presence. His rise is eagerly awaited.
- Archbishop Piero Marini, master of pontifical liturgical ceremonies -- If there's one thing Marini has taught us over 17 years as the papal MC, it's that uplifting, genuinely holy liturgy is not directly correlated to how much the celebrant looks like he's just performed an armed robbery on the Tower of London. Clean vestments, precise movements, dignified furnishings (like the stunning monstrance at the Vigil) the best of the old, the new and the universal all meant to lift a congregation's attention heavenward as opposed toward what Joseph Ratzinger once called "the golden calf of ourselves" have been his hallmarks -- and the quality is there for the world to see. For all the questions that linger about his future, if this WYD turns out to be his swan song, the apogee period of papal liturgy as public event would be going out on a glorious note.
- The WYD Bloggers -- Tim Drake, Brandon Evans from The Criterion of Indianapolis and scores of others (they're all linked at Amy's) brought the experience home to everyone who wasn't able to be in Cologne. From the glitches to the smells, sounds, queue-times and every other element of the week, the blogs made this WYD a real world event. My pencil press confreres have some serious catching up to do.
- Catholics for a Free Choice -- When John Allen calls anyone's antics a "side show," that's the sign that all their credibility is lost.
- The Seminarians at the Friday encounter -- Watching the Friday evening prayer service, those new to the Liturgy of the Hours might've assumed that screaming, cheering and chanting the Pope's name were approved antiphons for the Psalms. Apparently, the boys weren't taught that just because the Pope's presiding at prayers doesn't mean that they can treat it like it's the Super Bowl or a wrestling match. The lack of restraint and respect for the liturgical act shown by the next generation of priests accomplished what no ressourcement progressive had yet been able to successfully do: they made Annibale Bugnini look as traditional as Ray Burke. That's saying something... When the Pope said that "The role of formators is decisive," what unfolded before his eyes was a reminder of the degree to which that decisiveness must be monitored and properly maintained.
- EWTN -- The Bearded Marys blew it, even after they admitted that they didn't have much time for laypeople during their coverage. It got to the point where they ditched the Vatican's audio feed for some guy who kept reminding everyone (during that same Friday evening prayer) that this was EWTN's 25th anniversary year. And this has what to do with the Pope, again? Oh, that's right -- nothing. All thanks again to CTV and Radio Vaticana for showing the amateurs how to cover a Pope.
- Gerhard Schroder -- With three weeks left in a campaign that has him lagging in the polls, the German chancellor (and his fourth wife) might've been hoping for some quality photo-op time to exploit the papacy for electoral purposes a la Bush. He ended up with a pool-shot and a brief, private "Hi, there" -- a courtesy also extended his front-running challenger.
- Toronto -- Admittedly, WYD 2002 took place under less-than-ideal circumstances -- the major throes of sex abuse disclosures in the States, low attendance and the failing health of JP. There were even whispers at the time that the celebration was a fading fad. Cologne's success at rejuvenating the franchise makes the last meeting look even less memorable than it was before this week.
- Sydney -- How the hell is Pell going to top Cologne? The Olympic experience with crowd-control and organization helps, for only the second time (the first was Buenos Aires in 1987), World Youth Day has been given to the Southern Hemisphere -- a flight that's easily a full day of travel or more (and just as exorbitant, pricewise) from the American and Western European youth who form the bulk of WYD registrations. The attraction of Mel Gibson's mini-Oberammergau won't be solely sufficient to make this venture float. Let's see what they've got up their sleeve... Pell is known to be a man of surprises.
Lastly, Allen closes shop in Germany with a last note on Maestro Marini.
This may be a bit of insider baseball, but attentive Vatican-watchers were waiting for the papal liturgies at World Youth Day to see if the somewhat Broadway-esque elements familiar from past editions, associated with Archbishop Piero Marini, the longtime liturgist of John Paul II, would be scrubbed. Given the passion of Benedict XVI for reverent, sober liturgies whose focus is on God rather than the human participants, some expected a more toned-down, "classical" style.
Admittedly, the Saturday night vigil was not a Mass, but it nevertheless featured vespers and a Eucharistic devotional service. It was striking, therefore, that many characteristic Marini touches were still there -- suggesting that at least on this score, and at least for now, Benedict XVI has opted for a philosophy of, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it...."
[I]t's nevertheless one small indication that the sweeping "restoration" some expected from Benedict XVI, especially on liturgical matters, may not be forthcoming in quite the way some had imagined.
Amen. Amen. And amen.
There were some funny little moments these past few days. They're up next....
PHOTO: Wolfgang Radtke/POOL