The Saturday Pre-Game Show
On the topic of fun, my "I Rock Catholic Girls" t-shirt will now have to wait for Sydney to be displayed with its greatest effect. Boo. I'll wear it to Mel Gibson's little pageant that's in the works. But I digress.
While less dense than today's schedule, tomorrow in Cologne will present many opportunities for the Pope to show his hand on several salient elements in the secular and ecclesial arenas.
After another private mass at the Archbishop's Residence, there will be a mid-morning audience with the civil authorities. Germany is in the midst of a heated campaign with early elections coming on 13 September. It's quite a commentary on the polling that the Pope will meet not solely with the Social Democratic Chancellor Gerhard Schroder, but also with the woman who will likely succeed him, the opposition leader Angela Merkel, head of the Christian Democratic Union.
Like most of Western Europe, Germany's traditional political cleavage falls along the division of welfare state vs. family -- subsidiarity and family being the traditional base concepts of the Christian Democratic parties who now hold the balance of power in Austria, the Netherlands, and Italy (even though Forza Italia is more Berlusconi's personality cult than anything else). The coming election and the Ratzinger's own emphases make this encounter a ripe moment for the German Pope to express his thoughts on the secularization of his homeland and, by extension, that of the European continent.
Before heading to the Saturday vigil at Marienfeld, he will receive representatives of the Muslim community. A "discourse" -- an address in the area of 10 minutes in length -- is planned. This is Benedict's first meeting in an exclusively Islamic context, giving him the berth to speak on issues of identity, assimilation, social justice and fundamentalism. This is the speech to parse for the day.
Tomorrow's calendar ends at the Marienfeld vigil, where he will preside over the two hour mix of prayers, music and other expressions of worship. A long, meditative reflection will be given which, with the Sunday homily, will be the most substantive messages of the World Youth Day event and the pastoral visit as a whole.
Now, if only that crowd will behave better than the hootin' and hollerin' seminarians who wouldn't stop screaming like football hooligans even in the middle of Vespers. Is their lack of self-control really that bad?
What a lovely example from the next generation of priesthood. Thank God I'm not a bishop.