The 17th International Youth Festival in Medjugorje

date: 11.08.2006.

The 17th International Youth Festival took place in Medjugorje from the 1st to the 6th of August, 2006. This year’s theme was, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps 119 [118]: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 the 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… The flags of about 50 countries fluttered in rhythm with the songs…

The 17th Youth Festival began on the evening of August the 1st, with the Rosary and Holy Mass at the outside altar of St. James’ parish church in Medjugorje. It ended at dawn on August the 6th, with the Rosary and with Holy mass 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 own languages the young people from the many countries who had gathered for the festival… from Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Great Britain (England, Scotland, Wales), France (as well as young French people from the departments overseas - La Reunion in the Indian Ocean and Martinique in the Atlantic Ocean), Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong, Croatia, India, Ireland, Italy, Cameroon, Canada (as well as a group of native Dene Canadians), China, Congo, Korea, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Lebanon (i.e. young Lebanese who live outside of Lebanon), Hungary, Macedonia, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands (and the Dutch islands in the Caribbean), New Zealand, Germany, Palestine, Panama, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, the USA, Slovakia, Slovenia, Voivodina, Spain, Switzerland and Ukraine.

The Lebanese, who have been faithful and active participants in the Youth Festivals over several years, could not come this year because of the war. Their absence was felt in a painful way.

On the 1st of August, Mons. Domenico Sigalini, Bishop of Palestrina near Rome, assisted the opening of the Youth festival. Holy Mass on that first evening was presided over by Fr. Ivan Sesar, parish priest, in concelebration with Fr. Slavko Soldo, the Herzegovinian Franciscan provincial, together with 265 other priests. On other evenings, Holy Mass was presided over 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 had already visited Medjugorje on several occasions.

From the 2nd to the 5th of August, the daily programme began with Morning Prayer which was coordinated by Fr. Ljubo Kurtović (psalms, quotations from the 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, numerous pilgrims from Medjugorje and from the surrounding areas joined with the youth. The days ended with Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament (August 1st), Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament and a Concert of spiritual music (August 2nd), a procession through the parish and whole-night Adoration in silence (August 3rd), Theatre and musical show by Cenacolo Community (August 4th) and Adoration and farewell song (August 5th). Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament took place on both Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. After the “Tantum Ergo”, the priest went down to the faithful with the monstrance and blessed the congregation, at the conclusion of which 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 carried lit candles, flags and the names of their countries. The procession was more than 2 kilometres in length, and it ended with a half-hour adoration at the outside altar, followed by a whole-night silent adoration in the parish church until 7 a.m. On Friday evening, the Cenacolo Community performed a dramatised musical show called “The Light of the World”. On Saturday evening, the last evening of the Festival, in the Universal prayer, young people prayed for peace throughout the world. After Mass and Adoration, there was a musical farewell in song after which young people prayed the Rosary, climbed Cross Mountain where they awaited dawn and assisted at the Mass of the Transfiguration at 5 a.m. This Mass was presided over by Fr. Ljubo Kurtović and concelebrated by Fr. Ivan Sesar, parish priest, the Herzegovinian Franciscan provincial Fr. Slavko Soldo, and several other priests.

The young people come to Medjugorje because they want to encounter Jesus through Mary. Thousands of young people also went to confession this year. Several hundred priests heard confessions from dawn to late into the night. Hearts, freed from the burden of sin and purified by prayer, sang and danced…

Again this year, Radio “Mir” Medjugorje adapted its programme to the Youth festival. It broadcast one part of the programme live, so that as many local faithful as possible could take part in the exceptional gathering. The entire Youth festival (in German translation) was broadcast live by “Radio Maria” Austria.

Thanks to the efforts of about 20 interpreters and a whole crew of professional technicians, there were simultaneous translations 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) found expression in the prayer of the rosary and the prayers of the faithful.

About a hundred young people from Medjugorje Parish, together with seven volunteers from Karlovac (Croatia) co-operated in the running of the Festival in peace, joy and good order.

Approximately 90 young people from about 20 countries gathered together in an international choir and orchestra. The Parish Office put at their disposal “Domus Pacis”, the house of prayer where they were lodged and where they could hold 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 of various profiles also spoke to the young people: priests, religious and lay people. Tajči - Tatjana Cameron, also gave her witness. After a spectacular career on the pop scene in Croatia in the early nineteen nineties, she had reoriented her life. Today, she performs concerts of spiritual music in churches all over the USA, where she found her way to God and where she has 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 of faith.

Again 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 with a 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 properly suited to man, according to the example of Christ… They were gathered together by Mary, the Queen of Peace.