Here is a good report by John Allen on the highlights.
UPDATE: There is a lot of mainline press on this presentation because some think the Pope is anti-homosexual when he defends marriage. I dare anyone to read what he said and then come to the same conclusion. Silly. Notice he is defending the Church's teaching. Not demeaning any person.
A few quotes about World Youth Day, and some of the criticisms about it:
The phenomenon of the World Youth Days, particularly, has become increasingly an object of analysis, by those who seek to understand this particular species, one might say, of youth culture.Notice that Pope Benedict can use just about any thinker to his advantage (Nietzsche anyone?).
Before this, Australia had never seen as many people from all the other continents as during the last World Youth Day in Sydney, not even during the Olympics. And if earlier, there had been apprehensions that the appearance of such great numbers of young people would represent a threat to public order, paralyze traffic, block daily activities, provoke violence and make room for drug use, all such fears were proven to be unfounded.
It was a feast of joy - a joy that ultimately involved even those who were reluctant. Ultimately, no one felt it as an annoyance or a disturbance.
The days of the youth became a feast for everyone. Or rather, it was the first time everyone realized what a feast is, a celebration - an event during which everyone is, so to speak, outside himself, beyond the self, and therefore, truly with oneself and with others.
What then is the nature of what takes place during World Youth Day? What are the forces that act? Fashionable analyses tend to consider WYD as a variant of modern youth culture, as a type of rock festival modified in the ecclesial sense, with the Pope as somewhat of a star; and that with or without faith, these festivals would basically be the same thing. In this way, such analyses would do away with the question of God.
There are even Catholic voices who share this tendency, seeing WYD as a great spectacle, beautiful even, but with little meaning for the question of faith, and on the presence of the Gospel in our time. They would consider them days of festive ecstasy which, in the end, would leave everything just as before, without making any deep influence on life. Thus, they can find no explanation for the specialness of those days and the particular nature of their joy, the creative power of communion.
But first of all, one must note that the World Youth Days do not simply consist of that one week during which the events are publicly visible to the whole world. There is a long exterior and interior path that leads to them.
The Cross, accompanied by the Icon of the Mother of the Lord, goes on pilgrimage through the countries of the world. Faith, in its own way, needs to be seen and touched.
The encounter with the Cross, which is carried and touched by the faithful, becomes an interior encounter with Him who died on the Cross for us. The encounter with the Cross inspires within the hearts of young people the memory of the God who made himself man and suffers with us. And we see the woman whom he has given us to be our Mother.
The solemn WYD days are only the culmination of a long road along which young people proceed to encounter each other and to encounter Christ.
In Australia, it was not by chance that the Via Crucis through the inner city became a climactic event of those days. It synthesized once more all that had happened in preceding years and called attention to him who brings us all together - the God who loved us to the point of death on the Cross.
And so, the Pope is not the star around which these events take place. He is totally and only the Vicar [of Christ]. He points to the Other who is among us.
Finally, the solemn Liturgy is the center of all the celebration, because in it, what we cannot realize takes place, that for which we are always in wait. He is present. He is among us. He has torn open the heavens and this makes the earth bright. It is this that makes life joyous and open, and that unites us with one another in a joy that cannot be compared to the ecstasy of a rock festival.
Friedrich Nietzsche once said: "The problem is not how to organize a feast, but to find the persons who are able to enjoy it". According to Scripture, joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (cfr Gal 5,22): this fruit was abundantly perceptible in the days at Sydney.
Just as a long road precedes every World Youth Day, another long road follows. Friendships are formed which inspire a different lifestyle that is interiorly sustained. The great World Youth Days, not least of all, have the purpose of inspiring such friendships capable of making new places of faith emerge in the world, which are also places of hope, and of charity that is practised and lived.
He then moved on to creation, ecology, spirituality, sexuality and being stewards of it all:
First of all, there is the affirmation that comes to us from the start of the story of Creation, which tells of the Creator Spirit that moved over the waters, created the world and continuously renews it.I skipped a lot, but he ends with this:
Faith in the Creator Spirit is an essential element of the Christian Creed. The fact that matter has a mathematical structure, is full of spirit (energy), is the foundation of the modern science of nature.
Only because matter is structured intelligently, our mind is able to interpret it and actively remodel it. The fact that this intelligent structure comes from the same Creator Spirit that also gave us our spirit, implies a task and a responsibility.
The ultimate basis of our responsibility towards the earth is our faith in creation. The earth is not simply a property that we can exploit according to our interests and desires. It is a gift of the Creator who designed its intrinsic order, and through this, has given us the orientative indications to follow as administrators of his Creation.
The fact that the earth, the cosmos, mirror the Creator Spirit also means that their rational structure - which beyond their mathematical structure, become almost palpable through experimentation - carries in itself an ethical orientation.
The Spirit that shaped them is more than mathematics - it is Goodness itself, which, through the language of creation, shows us the road to correct living.
Since faith in the Creator is an essential part of the Christian Creed, the Church cannot and should not limit itself to transmitting to its faithful only the message of salvation. She has a responsibility for Creation, and it should validate this responsibility in public.
In so doing, it should defend not just the earth, water and air as gifts of Creation that belong to everyone. She should also protect man from destroying himself.
It is necessary to have something like an ecology of man, understood in the right sense. It is not outdated metaphysics when the Church speaks of the nature of the human being as man and woman, and asks that this natural order be respected.
This has to do with faith in the Creator and listening to the language of creation, which, if disregarded, would be man's self-destruction and therefore a destruction of God's work itself.
That which has come to be expressed and understood with the term 'gender' effectively results in man's self-emancipation from Creation (nature) and from the Creator. Man wants to do everything by himself and to decide always and exclusively about anything that concerns him personally. But this is to live against truth, to live against the Spirit Creator.
The tropical rain forests deserve our protection, yes, but man does not deserve it less as a Creature of the Spirit himself, in whom is inscribed a message that does not mean a contradiction of human freedom but its condition.
The great theologians of Scholasticism described matrimony - which is the lifelong bond between a man and a woman - as a sacrament of Creation, that the Creator himself instituted, and that Christ, without changing the message of Creation, welcomed in the story of his alliance with men.
Part of the announcement that the Church should bring to men is a testimonial for the Spirit Creator present in all of nature, but specially in the nature of man, who was created in the image of God.
One must reread the encyclical Humanae vitae with this perspective: the intention of Pope Paul VI was to defend love against consumer sex, the future against the exclusive claim of the moment, and human nature against manipulation.
An integral part of celebration is joy. The feast iself can be organized, but not joy. This can only be received as a gift. In fact, it is given to us in abundance, and for this, we are grateful.
Just as St. Paul describes joy as the fruit of the Holy Spirit, so too, John in his Gospel, links the Spirit and joy closely. The Holy Spirit gives us joy. He is joy itself. Joy is the gift in which all the other gifts are contained. It is the expression of happiness, of being in harmony with oneself, which can only be achieved by being in harmony with God and his creation.
Part of the nature of joy is to radiate itself, the need to communicate itself. The missionary spirit of the Church is nothing but the impulse to communicate the joy that has been given to us.
That such joy may always be alive in us and thus irradiate the world in its tribulations - that is my wish at the end of this year. Along with a sincere gratitude for all your efforts and work, I wish that this joy which comes from God may be given to us abundantly in the New Year.
Masterful...go read it all.