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Pope Defends World Youth Day as More Than ‘Rock Festival’

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Benedict XVI defended the Catholic Church’s World Youth Day as a “great feast of faith,” rejecting descriptions and criticisms of the popular annual event as a mere “rock festival.”
Benedict made his remarks on Monday (Dec. 22), during his Christmas address to the Roman Curia, the Catholic Church’s international government at the Vatican.
World Youth Day, established by Pope John Paul II in 1986, is celebrated on a diocesan level every year, and on an international scale every two or three years. The July 2008 gathering in Australia, attended by Benedict, drew more than 200,000 participants.
“Analyses in vogue tend to consider these days as a variant of modern youth culture, a sort of modified, ecclesiastical rock festival with the pope as the star,” Benedict said.
But religious worship lies at the center of all the celebrations, the pope said, noting that a “Way of the Cross” procession through the streets of Sydney was this year’s “culminating event.”
“Thus the pope is not the star around whom everything turns,” Benedict said. “He is totally and solely the vicar.”
The “joy” experienced by World Youth Day participants is “not comparable to the ecstasy of a rock festival” because it derives from the presence of God, he said.
Reviewing other events of the past year, Benedict recalled his trips to the United States and France, which he described as “days that irradiated luminosity.”
This year was the 40th anniversary of the controversial papal encyclical Humanae Vitae, which set forth the church’s prohibition of contraception. In Monday’s speech, Benedict stressed the document’s continuing relevance to contemporary questions of human sexuality.
Stating that the “nature of the human being as man and woman” is an “order of creation that must be respected,” the pope described the church’s affirmation of sex differences as a kind of nature conservation.
“(The church) should also protect man from the destruction of himself. There needs to be something like an ecology of man,” the pope said. “The tropical forests deserve our protection, yes, but man as a creature no less so.”
He also said the church should reaffirm the definition of marriage as “the life-long bond between man and woman,” presumably in response to the growing acceptance of same-sex marriage, which the Catholic Church opposes.
By Francis X. Rocca
Copyright 2008 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

  • jestrfyl

    OK, I have visions of B16 playing air-guitar to U2. This is not easy in a pointy hat.

  • nnmns

    “(The church) should also protect man from the destruction of himself. There needs to be something like an ecology of man,” the pope said. “The tropical forests deserve our protection, yes, but man as a creature no less so.”
    Presumably he’s concerned we won’t reproduce enough, especially if homosexuality isn’t squashed. That is so incredibly wrong; we may do ourselves in but if we do it will be because we are using too many resources and throwing the waste away into the air and the oceans and so forth, and that will be because of too many people, not too few.
    He also said the church should reaffirm the definition of marriage as “the life-long bond between man and woman,”
    Then why doesn’t the RCC fight divorce a tenth as hard as it fights homosexual marriage? He’s not even serious about what he says.

  • Your Name

    Nnmns, please don’t encourage them to fight divorce. Those groups make it very difficult for abused women to get out of controlling marriages already. My Catholic brother, who is getting his degree in systematic theology in Austria as I write, testified against me in court based on Catholic teaching. Often, these teachings have a real world impact in the worst of ways. (btw, luckily, in my case, the judge was appalled)
    As for the article, I went to see the Pope in Arizona in my teens and it was very much like a rock concert with long lines, standing for days in the hot sun, lots of paraphernalia, fainting, and ecstatic crying. Not very different from my New Kids On The Block concert, really.

  • jestrfyl

    I have this theory that Jesus’ teachings about divorce were not really about divorce as we think of it. He had this way of taking things and turning them upside down, inside out and backwards. In that he was asked about divorce by religious scholars, I think he was using their question to pin them. I believe – and have preached and taught – that he was talking about the way the Temple had divorced the very peoople it was intended to benefit. By being so incredibly exclusive, almost no one could participate. Also, the Tempe in his time was Herod’s Temple, a pumed up, hyper-cosmetic version of the earlier facility. In order to support it they had to exact huge amounts of money from anyone who could afford the scarificial reituals. essentially, it had become a “Trophy wife” of a facility, high maintenance and fickle. So his lessons on divorce were in the larger Old Tetsament scale of God and Israel – God = groom, Israel = bride. Anothr example is Hose and his wife Gomar, a living parable of religion gone wild.
    My point is this – using Jesus’ lessons on divorce for some sort of marriage counseling is not really apropriate. That is unless you are talking about pumped up, hyper-cosmetic facilities and employing the means necessary to support them. The Vatican is not the only one, either. We have plenty on this country too.

  • Henrietta22

    Your name, after reading your post I won’t use divorce again as I have before comparing divorce and homosexuality. How apalling for your own brother to testify against his sister because of RCC rules and regulations. I have a neice that’s Catholic and she waited 6 or 7 yrs. for a anullment of her marriage. Ridiculous. This is control and has nothing to do with God.

  • nnmns

    I don’t really want them to militate against divorce. My point was that they militated against homosexuality but not nearly so much against divorce (at least in the US) so they didn’t take seriously what they said.
    My guess is, they wouldn’t want to take on all those divorced people in say the US.

  • jestrfyl

    b16 says this like there is a problem with Rock Festivals! We would all do well to learn more from Rock Festivals – the joy and hope that comes from them can be infectious and empowering.
    Rock On b16!

  • Tom

    I must confess that on the surface I was never a fan of ‘Christian Rock’ music. Yet when I went to a mini-retreat and heard the same songs performed live by musicians with religious present I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit very definitively and became rather animated.
    ‘The “joy” experienced by World Youth Day participants is “not comparable to the ecstasy of a rock festival” because it derives from the presence of God, he said.’
    I’m not sure of the Pope’s experience at rock concerts. As one who’s dropped acid and abused other substances at these events (and even attended a couple relatively sober), I can attest that the ecstasy of a typical rock festival is definitely not comparable to the “joy” derived from the presence of God. Sadly I’ve never attended a World Youth Day as I missed the boat on that one.

  • jestrfyl

    I’ll be watching b16 tonight. I hope he treats us all to a little Air Guitar action on “Angels We Have Heard on High” (wailing on those Glorias) or maybe some heavy riffs on “O Holy Night”. O well, the scene is lovely (that Michelangelo and his gang did some good work – though the ornamentation is a little over the top) and the pagentry is exceptional. I hope they mic b16 better – he tends to come off as a bit – well, effeminate. The sound guys need to beef up his bass a bit and ease down the tenor.
    You have no idea what UP is until you attend a religious youth event. Forget all the drugs and beer (and I speak as a devoted Parrothead). These events are unlike anything – except maybe standing next to a huge electrical generator where yur hair stands up and your skin tingles. Go to one of these and you WILL have hope for the Church Universal, Multi- galactic, and Inter-cultural.

  • Andrew

    Joy is experienced when a person has true happiness; when he is truly blessed. True happiness and blessedness come from a life of love towards God and man. Having love for God and man requires years of practice in virtue and prayer and purging oneself of one’s sins. None of this is accomplished in “instances” and “moments” and certainly not “spontaneously.”
    Joy is, therefore, not experienced in instances, moments, and spontaneous, fabricated events. Joy is not “induced” by things, but achieved and accomplished over a long period of time and granted by God’s grace. Rock music gives man as much joy as much as alcohol (no wonder they go together so nicely).

  • Your Name

    I remember all too well the WYD in Toronto because of a news initerview with a group of young men from Australia who, after the main worship service, were heading to the club district with the stated objective of “getting laid. Don’t worry though, we’ll be using condoms.”
    Why do so many Catholic “youth” not understand irony. (Or their Chrurch’s teacings?)

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