COLOGNE, Germany — Anti-Catholic organizations were out in full force in Cologne, more so than at any previous World Youth Day gathering.
Yet, undaunted by the opposition, organizers and pilgrims pressed on, determined not to let the actions of the few deter the enthusiasm of so many whom have gathered in Cologne to celebrate their faith.
Pilgrims arriving in Cologne were met by Catholics for a Free Choice's “Good Catholics Use Condoms” ad campaign on the city's public transit system. Also problematic was a scheduled opening-ceremony address to be given by Eveline Herfkens, executive coordinator for the pro-abortion U.N. Millennium Campaign, and one non-Christian group had declared a “religion-free zone” with a series of events that would allow participants to have “fun as much as a pagan can have.”
Catholics for a Free Choice's ad was part of the organization's Condoms4Life campaign.
“There will be thousands of young people from all over the globe in Cologne for Catholic World Youth Day, and they need to know that good Catholics protect themselves and their loved ones,” said Frances Kissling, president of Catholics for a Free Choice.
A similar ad campaign by Kissling's organization was prevented at World Youth Day in Toronto. There, Pattison Outdoor Advertising Company, which had sold billboard space to Catholics for a Free Choice, removed the advertisements, saying in a letter that they “would not do anything to knowingly disrupt this once in a lifetime event.”
World Youth Day spokesman Matthias Kopp was disappointed that such efforts were garnering so much press.
“There are more important issues to discuss instead of presenting this one in such a provocative way,” said Kopp.
Success, however, was achieved in response to several of the more offensive activities.
Xt3.com, a youth-oriented Catholic website, came up with a novel response to the Catholics for a Free Choice campaign. It quickly created an ad campaign of its own that stressed a Church-affirming message. Ads bearing the slogans “We Know Abstinence Works” and “We Know True Love Waits” were made into 1,000 posters and placed throughout Cologne, often right next to the offensive ads.
“I think the ads are just brilliant,” said Christine O'Donnell, a public relations specialist who was in Cologne for World Youth Day. “They're very smart and they engage the culture.”
In other news, Cologne police were planning to distribute condoms at the event.
“They can't believe that 1 million young people can gather together and live healthy lives,” said Legionary Father Michael Luxbacher, who has worked in Germany for the past 10 years.
However, the police called off their plans to distribute contraception. A police spokeswoman said that they made the decision to cancel the distribution because they didn't “want to offend anyone.”
On the music front, one controversial Argentinian rock group, Rescate, was dropped by World Youth Day after its band members publicly questioned the authority of the pope.
Further controversy was averted when Herfkens’ Aug. 15 address in Bonn never materialized, with no reason given for the cancellation. No additional information was available at press time.
Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute president Austin Ruse had called on supporters to write to Cologne Cardinal Joachim Meisner to ask that Herfkens be canceled as a speaker.
During Herfkens’ term as the Netherlands Minister for Development Cooperation (between 1998 and 2002), she supported the abortion ship that offered to perform abortions off the shores of pro-life countries.
Despite the controversies, many see such groups’ actions as a sign that the organizations are in the death-throes. They see the great numbers of young people gathered and they realize that their time is running short.
Cardinal Joachim Meisner said that the days of the anti-Catholic theologians, such as Hans Küng and Eugen Drewermann, are over.
“The entire event is oriented to be an encounter for young people and not for 'seniors’,” Cardinal Meisner told Catholic News Agency. “There is nothing for them [Küng and Drewermann] here, as young people are not interested in the silliness they fostered for so long. We don't need any Drewermann or Küng or anything else stale at WYD.”
Tim Drake filed this story from World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany.