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World Youth Day: 'we came, we saw, we worshipped'29 August 2005

 Tired but jubilant - Last week more than 3,000 young people, 300 priests and 22 bishops returned to their communities in England and Wales - by plane, coach and car last week - having taken part in World Youth Day in Cologne.

Lead by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, on 21 August they had attended a special Mass celebrated by the Holy Father in the presence of more than one million young Catholics from all over the world.

In the days leading up to the Pope's arrival in Germany on 18 August - some groups waited for hours to see him arrive by boat at Cologne Cathedral while others witnessed this historical event on giant screens in Dusseldorf town square - there were 170 different catachetical events each morning at over 200 venues in Cologne, Bonn and Dusseldorf. Pilgrims attended Mass each day. Throughout the afternoons and evenings there were many prayer, arts, music and social events.

The young people stayed with families, in schools, gyms, hostels, hotels, and parish hall floors during their stay.

Magda Jarosiewicz, 18, from Ealing, was with the Westminster Diocese group who stayed on the floor of two gymnasiums in Solingen, outside Cologne. She said: "We've had a wonderful welcome everywhere. Every parish we've visited us has made us feel really at home. It is amazing meeting young Catholics from so many different countries. The catachesis sessions are really feeding us spiritually.

Daniel Hale, 22, from Birmingham, speaking at a evening social in an Irish pub in Dusseldorf said: 'This week is really is a phenomenal experience. You just stop for a time and reconnect with the things that are really important."

Pete, 19. from Birmingham, speaking after attending the Catachesis given by Archbishop Vincent Nichols at the Church of St Theodore in Koln-Vingst said: "There is so much in what the Archbishop said to reflect on. One thing I was particularly impressed by was when he talked about relationships and said he thought most Catholics take too long to bring up the subject of their faith with friends and people they are going out with. I know I do. I think after this I will feel more confident to share my beliefs. I've also been very touched by this parish. It is in a poor area but they do so much good work. They have a toy library in the cellar and collect all sorts of things for needy families. They are combining the spiritual with the practical so it all makes sense. Even the Stations of the Cross are relevant to the life of this community. One of the stations out there was put in the place where a Russian soldier was killed in the war."

Fr Andrew Allman, a newly ordained priest from Lancaster Diocese, speaking after the Pope met with 5,000 seminarians at the church of St Panteleon, said: "I found the whole occasion very occasion very affirming, particularly because the Holy Father himself requested the event. It was a great opportunity for me as a new priest to meet the new Pope. This event will be a great inspiration for me as I begin my ministry."

Father Paul Embery, from the National Office for Vocations, said: "The thing that struck me was when the Pope said that the gold we offer is our freedom. Not the hedonistic 'anything goes' freedom but the quest for truth and goodness - that's vocational. I hope that people may be able to reflect on this as they set out on their life's journey and consider what God has planned for them.

It was also very encouraging to see so so many young men at the meeting and realise, as Pope Benedict keeps telling us - we are a church of young people."

Josephine Ngobi from the Good Shepherd church, Croydon, Southwark Diocese, speaking on a crowded train platform in Cologne after seeing the Pope arrive by boat in Cologne, said: "Today really has felt like I've witnessed history being made. World Youth Day is a family tradition for me. My oldest sister went to Paris, the next one went to Rome and I went to Toronto. It's hectic but very enjoyable and faith-building. I love it."

At the Marienfeld, John, 19, from Shrewsbury Diocese said: "I am so happy to be part of this historic event. Its not really easy being a Christian in our society there days but then when you see an event like this you realise you are not alone. You are really part of something much greater. The Holy Father quoted Jesus saying that he is present when two or three people are gathered and how strongly present he is when there are some many of us. I really feel something special is happening here now. It has been exhausting physically but I feel very renewed and keen to go back at explored my faith more and reflect on my future."

Frankie Muldrew from Salford Diocese, speaking before the Marienfeld vigil: "There are 120 of us. We've been staying with Trier Diocese. Its been quite overwhelming. I didn't know what to expect. We stayed in a small place. They held a party for us every night. We stayed with a family who really treated us like royalty. There were workshops and Mass every day. We carried a cross up to the top of a hill overlooking the village. On our last night we gathered in the town square and some people cried when they said goodbye to us and when we looked up at the cross we saw they had written in lights 'good bye World Youth Day friends."

On the journey back to London, Clare Ward team member with CASE, said: "Our young people have shared the beauty of what it means to be a young Catholic follower of Christ with their peers and everyone they've met. Its been a remarkable evangelisation phenomena providing a model for mission - in joy, sharing Christ in everyday settings whether on public transport , at prayer during the liturgies in services, socialising, through our silent gestures and spoken words.

"This event sets an example for the whole Catholic community in England and Wales and promises to have widespread implications in the months ahead at diocesan and parish level. CASE is here to support the young delegates in this evangelising work

."Phyllis Boakye, a young trustee with the Catholic Association for Racial Justice, (CARJ) said: "This was my first WYD and nothing could have prepared me for the great atmosphere and the sheer joy and enthusiasm of all the people that I encountered.

"Above all things, WYD for me was a vivid demonstration of the diversity and vibrancy that exists in the church today. This truly is a global church.

"To see so many young people from so many countries all enjoying the experience of togetherness and celebrating a common faith was truly inspiring.

"The multicultural nature of WYD will I hope help to eliminate discrimination and to promote equality of opportunity within the Church and in the wider society. CARJ envisions a Church and a society that that affirms, values, respects and celebrates the equality and dignity of all God's people. The mood of this WYD for me was a great manifestation of this vision."