Pope John Paul II received a rapturous reception when he attended the first national Catholic youth meeting in Switzerland on Saturday.This content was published on June 5, 2004 - 23:52
His address to 12,000 young people in Bern was interrupted many times by loud cheering.
Speaking in German, French and Italian, the Pope often appeared to struggle with his text and his words were at times almost inaudible. For the crowd, it hardly seemed to matter.
“The Church needs your enthusiasm,” he told them, prompting more thunderous applause.
The crowd’s enthusiasm was evident from the outset, but excitement mounted as the time came for the Pope to make his appearance.
When the Pontiff was wheeled on to the stage in his specially-designed white chair everyone rose to their feet waving flags and cheering loudly. It was clear this was what the majority had been waiting for.
“A special day”
“This is a very special day for us,” said a 19-year-old woman attending the event with a group from her parish church. “We are very glad to meet the Pope.”
Judging by the flags being waved in the auditorium, many of those present had travelled from other parts of Europe for a glimpse of the 84-year-old Pontiff.
Christa from New Orleans in the United States said she and her friends were on their way to Zermatt when they heard about the youth gathering. “We love the Holy Father, so we decided to come along,” she told swissinfo.
“He’s my hero,” Christa said. “When you look into his eyes you see Jesus, compassion and humility. Anything he has to say, I’ll just drink in.”
But not all of those attending were as uncritical of the Pope.
“I’m not here for the Pope,” said a young woman from Basel. “I’m here to meet other young people.”
“I think the Pope’s too old and he can’t really speak properly any more,” she added.
The Pope’s message drew on the theme of the two-day youth meeting: “Get Up”, the words of Christ quoted in Luke’s Gospel when he brings a young man back to life.
The Pontiff said many young people were experiencing despair, but that the Gospel offered hope.
When the ceremony ended thousands of young people streamed out of the arena, chatting excitedly and laughing.
Some said they had appreciated the Pope’s message. Others admitted that they hadn’t understood much of it.
“I just understood that we’re the future,” said one teenager. “But I wasn’t disappointed.”
swissinfo, Morven McLean
The Pope made an appearance on Saturday night in front of 12,000 young people attending the first national Catholic youth gathering in the Swiss capital, Bern.
He gave an address in German, French and Italian in which he encouraged young Catholics to seek Jesus.
The event also featured video clips, dance and music.