| Pressemeldung | Nr. 120

Closing Press Conference on the XII International Pilgrimage of altar boys and girls to Rome

At the XII International Pilgrimage of altar boys and girls, more than 60,000 altar servers from 19 countries have gathered in Rome this week (30 July to 3 August 2018). The young pilgrims have taken the city and the Vatican by storm with their enthusiasm and commitment to faith. In addition to memorable highlights such as the Special Audience with Pope Francis on Tuesday evening (31 July 2018), attended by 90,000 young people, the pilgrimage was marked by catechesis and religious services. But also personal meetings with other altar servers from various countries were possible. Thus, altar boys and girls from different dioceses and countries could get to know each other on the blind date on Wednesday evening (August 1, 2018). This year's motto of the pilgrimage is “Seek peace and pursue it!” (Ps 34:15b).

At today's (August 2, 2018) closing press conference, Bishop Dr Ladislav Nemet SVD (Zrenjanin/Serbia), President of the International Association of Altar Servers (CIM), has given a positive summary: “90,000 young people prayed together for peace on St. Peter’ Square – this is an impressive testimony to the faith and the community of the universal Church. Even if some of them unfortunately did not come to St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis was there all the time. He was very attentive and tried to get into conversation with the young people who brought him gifts. He strengthened and encouraged the altar servers in their service to the Church. If the young pilgrims spread the enthusiasm that was so evident on St. Peter's Square and go home strengthened, then we have reached our goal”. It is an impressive sign that 60,000 young altar boys and girls have set off for the Eternal City. “We have felt that faith is alive,” said Bishop Nemet.

The President of the Commission for Youth Ministry of the German Bishops’ Conference, Bishop Dr Stefan Oster SDB (Passau), emphasized: “The week we have spent in Rome has been and still is a great joy. So many thousands of young people from 19 countries celebrate their faith and community with great enthusiasm, despite great strain – and they celebrate with the Pope. That is reassuring. It also shows us that the Church is young, that she has a future. But of course: We do not only want to offer the young people beautiful events, we also want to help them to cultivate their faith in the small details of everyday life. To this end, also in the future, we need above all people who are prepared to live in true companionship and friendship with young people and to learn from them. This, of course, depends primarily on individuals who are willing to stand up for them. And if we then succeed in creating a strong community experience and a tangible atmosphere of spiritual life, with the Gospel being proclaimed authentically at the same time – with all challenges and without watering it down, then there is usually also growth, both internally and externally. Then young people can develop a true religious identity and keep it. I also hope that the coming Youth Synod will provide some answers to the urgent questions of how young people can remain in the Church in a positive sense and mature in and with her.”

Dr Klára Csiszár, Vice-President of CIM, underlined the different offers of the countries: “The altar servers have shaped the church services, catechesis and the offers of confession and conversation. The altar boys and girls were proud of their service.” The characteristics of the altar service have become clear: “The Austrian Festival was like a festival with games, interviews and interactions. The situation was completely different in the Hungarian-speaking groups (Hungary, Slovakia, Serbia, Romania and Ukraine): the church service was traditionally structured. One should know that in these countries, the ministry of altar servers belongs to the pastoral care of vocations and not to the pastoral care of young people.” The response of the different nations to the Audience with Pope Francis was clearly positive, said Dr Csiszár. “Many nations were involved in the liturgy. There were many elements in different languages. Despite all differences, the unity of the Church has become visible. This experience is the prerequisite for peaceful coexistence.“

Alexander Bothe, in charge of the Office for Youth Ministry of the German Bishops’ Conference (afj) and responsible internationally for CIM and nationwide for the Pilgrimage of altar boys and girls to Rome, stresses the responsibility of the Church for the young people: “Three young people from all over the world presented the Holy Father with the pilgrimage signs that have connected him this week with the altar servers. The push message that the Pope sent to the smartphones at the end, sends the young people out in their service for peace, which is Jesus Christ himself. This also shows that the Church is young, colourful and present in the heart of the world. Our task as a Church is to accompany them in their everyday life so that they can have this experience and give them a voice and space in the Church and in society. Pastoral and liturgical accompaniment must be permeated by a vision, an idea of what Church and faith actually are.”

Background
The participants of the XII International Pilgrimage of altar boys and girls come from 19 countries: Antigua and Barbuda, Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, St. Kitts and Nevis, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Ukraine and the USA. The approximately 50,000 altar servers from Germany are accompanied by Bishop Dr Stefan Oster SDB (Passau), President of the Commission for Youth Ministry of the German Bishops’ Conference, and many members of the German Bishops' Conference. This year’s International Pilgrimage of the altar servers is dedicated to the motto “Seek peace and pursue it!” (Ps 34:15b).

Notes:
Photos of the altar server pilgrimage (exclusive of pictures of the Papal Audience, press conferences, blind date, etc.) in print quality are available free of charge.
Link to photo selection: www.joernneumann.pixieset.com/ministrantenwallfahrt2018
Copyright: © Deutsche Bischofskonferenz / Jörn Neumann