The 17th International Youth Festival took place in Medjugorje from August 1 to 6, 2006. This year’s theme was, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps 119 :105), in harmony with the theme, which the Holy Father Benedict XVI gave to the youth for this year’s World Youth Day that took place on Palm Sunday in local Churches.
About 30.000 young people from all over the world gathered together in Medjugorje in order to encounter Jesus in Mary’s school of peace and joy… They came from all the continents and from the four corners of the earth… flags of about 50 countries were fluttering in the rhythm of the songs…
The 17th Youth Festival began in the evening on August 1, with the Rosary and Holy Mass at the outside altar of St. James’ parish church in Medjugorje, and ended on August 6, with the Rosary and Holy mass at dawn around the cross on Cross Mountain. The opening was marked by young people from about 40 countries who, before the beginning of the Eucharistic celebration, greeted in their languages young people from their countries who came for this meeting (Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, the Czech republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Great Britain (England, Scotland, Wales), France (as well as young French from the departments over the ocean - La Reunion in the Indian Ocean and Martinique in the Atlantic Ocean), Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Croatia, India, Ireland, Italia, Cameroon, Canada (as well as a group of native Canadians Dene), China, Congo, Korea, Kosovo, Latvia, Leetonia, Lebanon (young Lebanese who live outside of Lebanon), Hungary, Macedonia, Malta, Mexico, Nederland and Dutch islands in the Caribbean), New Zeeland, Germany, Palestine, Panama, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, the USA, Slovakia, Slovenia, Voivodina, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine).
The Lebanese, who have been faithful and active participants of the Youth Festival during many years, could not come this year because of the war. Their absence was felt in a painful way.
On August 1, Mons. Domenico Sigalini, Bishop of Palestrina near Rome, assisted in the opening of the Youth festival. Holy Mass on that first evening was presided by Fr. Ivan Sesar, parish priest, in concelebration with Fr. Slavko Soldo, Herzegovinian Franciscan provincial, and 265 priests. On other evenings, Holy Mass was presided by Fr. Jozo Grbeš, Fr. Sretan Ćurčić, Fr. Mario Knezović, and Fr. Branko Radoš, former parish priest of Medjugorje. On the last evening of the festival, one of the concelebrants of the Eucharistic celebration was Mons. Jérôme Gapangwa Nteziryayo, retired bishop of Uvira (Congo), who has already been several times in Medjugorje.
From August 2 to 5, the programme began with Morning Prayer that was coordinated by Fr. Ljubo Kurtović (psalms, quotations from Holy Father’s letter to the youth for the WYD 2006, prayers of the faithful, Bible readings), followed by testimonies (morning and afternoon). The central encounter of each day was the Eucharistic celebration in which, every evening, numberless pilgrims from Medjugorje and from the surroundings joined the youth. Days ended with Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament (August 1), Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament and a Concert of spiritual music (August 2), procession through the parish and whole-night Adoration in silence (August 3), Theatre and musical show by Cenacolo community (August 4), Adoration and singing farewell (August 5). Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament was held on Tuesday and on Wednesday evening. After the “Tantum Ergo”, the priest went down to the faithful with the monstrance and blessed the audience. At the end, he gave a solemn Eucharistic benediction. On Wednesday evening, after the Adoration, Taiana Cameron gave a concert of spiritual music. On Thursday evening, there was a procession with the Crucifix through the parish, in which young people were carrying lit candles, flags and names of their countries. The procession was longer than 2 kilometres, and it ended by half-hour adoration at the outside altar, followed by the whole-night silent adoration in the parish church until 7 a.m. On Friday evening, the Cenacolo community gave a theatre and musical show called, “The Light of the world”. On Saturday evening, the last evening of the Festival, in the Universal prayer, young people were praying for the peace in the world. After Mass and Adoration, there was a singing farewell after which young people, praying the Rosary, climbed Cross Mountain where they awaited dawn and assisted the Mass of the Transfiguration at 5 a.m. This Mass was presided by Fr. Ljubo Kurtović and concelebrated by Fr. Ivan Sesar, parish priest, Fr. Slavko Soldo, Herzegovinian Franciscan provincial, and other priests.
Young people are coming to Medjugorje because they want to encounter Jesus through Mary. Thousands of young people also this year went for confession: several hundreds of priests were hearing confession from dawn to late in the night. Hearts freed from burden of sin and purified by prayer were singing and dancing…
Also this year, Radio “Mir” Medjugorje adapted its programme to the Youth festival: it broadcasted live one part of the programme, so that as many local faithful as possible may take part in this exceptional gathering. The entire Youth festival (in German translation) was broadcasted live by “Radio Maria” Austria.
Thanks to the effort of about 20 interpreters and a whole crew of professional technicians, simultaneous translation was done in 16 languages: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Polish, Czech, Slovak, Slovenian, Russian, Romanian, Hungarian, Albanian, Korean, Chinese and Croatian. The entire programme at the main altar was led in Croatian. Languages, which were not simultaneously translated, like Hebrew, Portuguese, Dutch/Flemish, Ukrainian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Creole (La Reunion), Macedonian, Bulgarian, Dene (Canadian Indians), Aramaic and Malayalam (India) were expressed through the prayer of the rosary and the prayers of the faithful.
About hundred young people form the Parish Medjugorje and seven volunteers from Karlovac (Croatia) helped that the Festival may go on in order, peace and joy.
About 90 young people from about 20 countries gathered together in an international choir and orchestra. The Parish Office has put at their disposal the house of prayer “Domus Pacis” where they were lodged, and where they could have their musical rehearsals. The director of this unusual orchestra gathered together for this special occasion was Prof. Martin Pero Boras from Ljubuški.
On the first day of the festival, Mons. Domenico Sigalini, bishop of Palestrina near Rome, gave catechesis to the young people. Other witnesses from different profiles also spoke to young people: priests, religious, lay people. Tajči - Tatjana Cameron, also gave her witness. After a spectacular career on pop scene in Croatia in the beginning of the nineties, she had reoriented her life: today, she is giving concerts of spiritual music in the churches all over the USA, where she found her way to God and where she settled and founded her family. The Medjugorje visionaries spoke about Our Lady’s apparitions. Members of the Cenacolo community spoke about their way from the hell of drugs to the interior freedom in faith.
Also this year, young people came to Medjugorje without knowing who the speakers would be. They came because this is Medjugorje - they came because Our Lady is here. They gathered here in faith and by their desire to live and witness their faith. They were gathered here by a profound desire to participate - with the help of God - in the building of a world that is in proportion to man, according to the example of Christ. They are gathered together by Mary, the Queen of Peace.