ROME WELCOMES MORE THAN 70,000 ALTAR SERVERS
As I write, Pope Francis has just entered St. Peter’s Square on what has been probably the hottest day of the year – we have been in the high 90s (38 celsius) and tomorrow are supposed to reach 100 – to say vespers with and address some 70,000 young altar servers from 18 countries and islands. This is the 12th annual event and the young men and women traditionally come to Rome for several days, including time with the Holy Father.
Vespers start at 6:30 and after that Pope Francis, on the final day of his “working vacation,” will address the young people.
I hope and pray there will be enough water to go around. I know that, in the past on similar hot days, the Vatican has made sure there are hundreds, if not thousands of bottles of water ready for the pilgrims.
The young altar servers have been in Rome for several days and each group, be it a parish or a diocese, distinguishes itself by wearing identifying neck scarves, hats or shirts (or all three). You’d have to have stayed at home for four days note to note the huge crowds of young people!
They hail from Italy, Belgium, Croatia, Luxembourg, Austria, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Switzerland, Serbia. Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Ukraine, Hungary, the United States and from several Caribbean islands. The largest group – at least 50,000 – comes from Germany.
The following is a piece from Vatican media – it speaks of the goRome! App, something you might want to try!
More than 70,000 altar servers from 18 different countries, and many more nationalities, begin the 12th International Pilgrimage for Altar Boys and Girls under the motto, “Seek Peace and Pursue it!” (Psalm 34:15).
By Sr Bernadette Mary Reis, fsp (vaticanmedia)
“Seek Peace and Pursue it!” is the motto for the 12th International Pilgrimage of Altar Boys and Girls which began in Rome on Monday and ends on Saturday. More than 70,000 altar servers between the ages of 13 and 23 from 18 countries, and many more nationalities, are participating in this year’s pilgrimage.
Altar servers – missionaries of peace
The International Pilgrimage of Altar Boys and Girls is organized by Coetus Internationalis Ministrantium (CIM), an international organization for the pastoral care of altar servers. Founded in 1960, the organization, then and now, seeks to foster peace beyond borders in order to create a world at peace. Dr Klára Csiszár, Vice President of CIM, says that CIM fosters a sense that altar servers are missionaries who “help to carry the world-changing power of God’s love from the altar into the world”.
Bringing altar servers together from many nations, and even more nationalities, helps deepen religious identity, strengthen communion, and “shows the young people the worldwide dimension of their ministry”, says Bishop Stefan Oster, SDB, President of the Commission for Youth Ministry of the German Bishops’ Conference.
Blind date scheduled
Pilgrims will be identifiable by a scarf personalized according to diocese and country. In addition to various spiritual and liturgical experiences, some pilgrims will go on a blind date, meeting others at random to pray and play together. The highlight of the event is on Tuesday evening when the pilgrims will participate in an Extraordinary Audience with Pope Francis in St Peter’s Square.
Pilgrims can download the goRome! App where they can find a game with St Tarcisius, practical information for getting around Rome, prayers, event locations, handy words in Italian, emergency information — and even locations to the nearest water fountain and gelateria. The goHome! Section will then accompany the altar servers home after the pilgrimage as they reenter their normal lives after such a strong faith experience.
One of the pilgrims is Jonas Ferstl, an 18-year-old from Germany, who became an altar server after making his First Communion because he wanted to continue connecting with the Faith. He describes serving at the altar as a wonderful experience and that the service he performs in Church should also be identifiable elsewhere. With the recent death of his grandfather, he has felt the importance of his faith. It is that faith, he says, that assures him that his grandfather is in a better place.
(The papal homily and his address to young people will soon be posted in summary form on vaticannews.va in both Italian and English)