Yet among some of the American delegates, there was evidence Thursday that Benedict XVI's call to a full-bodied, unapologetic version of Catholicism resonated.
"As Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, he was like the church's bulldog," said Pedro Russell, a 21-year-old from Bitteroot Valley, Montana, who cuts quite a figure -- tall, with bright green hair, and a rosary around his neck.
"He was puttin' the smack-down on heresy," Russell said. "Personally, I'm looking forward to that. There was a lot of slightly misguided teachings that I grew up with. Knowing that there's somebody up there who's made his entire cardinal's career out of straightening out those heresies and defending the true, solid teachings of the church is something I am very, very excited about for the youth. He'll be able to deliver a strict, simple answer that will lead them to deeper life. "
And what of Benedict? Well, he did laugh when his hat blew off as he exited the plane. He did not kiss the ground, and seems less than comfortable with the exuberant youth whom he must reach, woo and win to meet his aim of using them to “reinvigorate” the church.
For their part, the youngsters are more than willing to embrace him, even forgive him for not being their beloved John Paul II, the only pope most of them have ever known.
The problem is that the new man seems unsure of how to hug them back, as it were. That may be why so far the scenes have been more like a small-time dignitary visiting a parochial venue, rather that the world stage event of the last papacy. But there are three days to go, so we shall see.
I absolutely disagree with that even though, you know, I'm not a Real Journalist right there in Cologne. I watched a lot of this today, and I saw the Pope, pausing, smiling, chuckling in a very relaxed kind of way...startled, perhaps by the vigorous Ben-e-dett-o! shouts that burst out while he was speaking. Ah, the need to frame a story. Just let the story tell itself, would ya?
Brandon Evans from the Criterion (ArchIndy paper) reports on catechetical sessions with bishops and seeing the Pope last evening.
Ad Limina has more good anecdotes, including the widespread response to the CFFC posters. Heh.
Rocco's got a rundown of the Pope's schedule tomorrow, which includes a visit to the Synagogue of Cologne, lunch with youth, and a gathering with seminarians.
For the actual youth who are at World Youth Day, the schedule includes more catechesis, a Youth Festival and a Way of the Cross, celebrated in 400 different spots in the area. The English text of the Way of the Cross is here (pdf file)