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The reports that I’m reading on bloggers who are managing to update indicate that transportation is an enormous problem, as is food (the pilgrims are given tickets which they hand in for meals – apparently the lines are very long and food runs out), and many are worried how the crush would be handled once the Pope arrives and all the pilgrims converge on Cologne (which is today – and in fact, the day is mostly over as I type this, so I guess we’ll find out soon). It sounds like an unfortunate situation – I’m not a WYD afficianado or expert, but I wonder if Cologne is particularly ill-suited for this kind of gathering or if the numbers are simply so large now that no city can handle it? (I do think of Rome, however, during the funeral of John Paul II – hundreds of thousands of people came there, but I don’t recall hearing stories about an overwhelmed transport system)

However, in between stories of mob scenes, I also read stories of young people being challenged in the catechesis given by bishops, of appreciating the opportunities for Adoration and Reconciliation. So we’ll hope and pray, that in the end, for these young people, the good experiences outweigh the difficulties.

And is WYD for everyone? Is it heaven on earth? Of course not. When you get half a million youth together, you have a riot of mixed motives, of raging hormones, conflicting personalities and intensity. Take your local youth group or religious ed class and multiply by hundreds of thousands. I do think you’d find a higher proportion of seriously engaged youth at WYD, simply because of the trouble it takes to make the trip, but at the same time, there’s probably a good party vibe going on – in the context of exhaustion and discomfort.

But it’s definitely a good thing, and I’m really looking forward to what the Pope has to say to them…and to us.

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