2,000 Irish for World Youth Day
The largest delegation of young Irish people to attend World Youth Day left for the pilgrimage in Cologne, Germany, yesterday.
Pope Benedict XVI will attend the event, marking his first trip abroad since becoming Pope. He will arrive by boat on the River Rhine on Thursday.
Almost 2,000 young people from Ireland are attending and over one million from all over the world are expected for the largest event of its kind in Europe this year.
The group which left yesterday are with Catholic Youth Care and were led by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Cardinal Desmond Connell and Bishop Raymond Field.
This morning, a group of 10 Travellers aged 15 to 17 and four adults from the Navan Traveller Workshop will also leave for Cologne.
On arrival they will be linking with other people from the Meath diocese and Bishop Michael Smith. One of the Travellers' group leaders, Nell McDonagh, said young Travellers were experiencing changes in their lives but their faith was what they had held on to most of all.
"The amount of interest and excitement in the idea of our religion and also going to Pope Benedict's Mass is marvellous. It means a lot to them to take part in a worldwide event and for them to represent Travellers at it," Ms McDonagh said.
She also wanted to acknowledge all the support they had from the community. They had to fundraise for it and had support from agencies in the Meath area and from the bishops, particularly Bishop Smith, Fr Stephen Monaghan, from the Travelling People's Parish, and Fr Michael English, of Mullingar.
The 20th World Youth Day will begin tomorrow and continue until August 21st. The event was begun by Pope John Paul II in 1985. After an opening ceremony, young people will have a daily programme consisting of catechism sessions, which are talks given by bishops and cardinals on a particular theme. This year it is taken from the Gospel account of the Magi - "We come to adore him".
Tomorrow, the Archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Joachin Meisner, will open WYD with an open-air welcoming service on the banks of the Rhine. On Thursday, after a morning catechesis meeting, there will be an afternoon welcoming ceremony with Pope Benedict at Frechen, near Cologne. On Saturday there will be an evening vigil with the Pope, who will celebrate the concluding Mass on Sunday.