The 21st International Youth Festival with the main theme: “Good Master, what shall I do to inherit the eternal life” began in Medjugorje on August 1st with the evening Holy Mass and finished on August 6th, Feast of Transfiguration with the Holy Mass at 5 a.m. on the top of the Cross Mountain. Prior to the Holy Mass on first evening, young people from 69 various countries introduced themselves and were welcomed by Fr.Petar Vlasic, parish priest from Medjugorje. Opening Holy Mass was celebrated by Provincial of Herzegovina Franciscan Province, Fr. Ivan Sesar. Every evening there are around 500 priests who concelebrate at Holy Masses, and the entire programme is being simultaneously translated in various world languages: English, German, Polish, Slovakian, Italian, Spanish, Korean, Russian, Czech, Hungarian, Romanian, Portuguese, Arabian, Chinese, and Slovenian, while smaller language groups are translating in their own languages.
Ever since the first evening we can notice the larger number of participants in comparison to all of the previous years. The programme is, as every year, marked with the prayer, adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, lectures, testimonies and all of that is accompanied with the music and song of the International Orchestra and Choir. There are 42 accredited members of the Press who monitor and follow everything that is happening in Medjugorje, while several Internet portals are broadcasting the whole programme live, both picture and sound, in various world languages. There are few TV crews who are recording their own documentaries.
As we always try to find some special pilgrimage groups, here we mention Fr. Tomislav who came as the spiritual assistant to the group of Franciscan Youth from Pula, and they walked for 17 days to come to Medjugorje prior to the Youth Festival. Fr. Danijel Rajic came by bicycle from Sarajevo together with two other students, and they carried in their hearts intentions for spiritual renewals, unity of the Church, spiritual vocations and youth. “The Youth Festival gives so much to the young people. We perceive all of this as the inspiration from the Holy Spirit. So many various flags, so many hands open to the God is something we have never seen anywhere else. This is the most beautiful unity of our Church, right here in Medjugorje”, they said.
The group of young people from Germany said that such a beauty of our church can be felt only here, “If you think that our faith died, you simply come here and in the unity of more than 50 thousand people you see that faith lives. There is something in the atmosphere that you can feel straight away”, says young man in traditional clothes and his friend Benedikta, who came for the first time said that she came to Medjugorje to strengthen her faith.
There is also a group of young people from Australia, who came to Dubrovnik for a holiday, but they rented mini van and they drive every day to Medjugorje and back to Dubrovnik in the evening time. Some of them are not even religious. They also speak about something special here in Medjugorje. As they come from wealthy families it is not a problem for them to sleep in a hotel and drive every day to Medjugorje.
There is also a group of pilgrims from Italy who came to Medjugorje by bicycle and after the Youth Festival they will continue their journey of 4500 km to Holy Land, hoping to spread messages of peace and reconciliation on their way. One of them, Marcello, lives with the transplanted kidneys and says: “I came here tired; my health has not been so great. But, despite that I decided to come!”
Young Lebanese, member of the International Choir said that he came with the group of 150 Lebanese and said that this is all the work of the Holy Spirit that both young and old come looking for the grace and receiving the grace.
Our press members agree that all of the young people they have met in these days have such beautiful testimonies.