|Across a bridge over the Seine NW of Paris, the Esplanade of la Défense hosts a gathering of nations for the opening of the Youth Festival|
ARLY this morning, the wide expanse of the Esplanade of la Défense was a fury of loading vans, cellular phoning and busloads of men and women walking out over the plaza as the Youth Festival opened on this second day of WYD.
At the top, looking in a straight line towards Napoleon's Arc of Triumph and the obelisk of Luxor in the Place de la Concorde, a podium was set up for the French musical group Bellet, musicians and technicians, who began installing their equipment for a concert rehearsal.
Walking across the great expanse, a group of two hundred and fifty young people from Hong Kong, all in China-red t-shirts, studied the different panels set up by members of the Christian group ACAT (Action for the Abolition of Torture) with a message on putting an end to the barbarism of sending children to the gas chambers.
10 :00 a.m. Security officers intervene to delay opening the Cybercafé. Minutes later, a large truck leaves the Esplanade, accidentally ripping out the telephone lines : no Internet connections for the café's visitors ! Which doesnŐt prevent the cafés workers from distributing the Jubilatio CD-Rom together with a hand-made souvenir from one of the contemplative orders of nuns.
11 :00 a.m. Poor Clare Sisters have opened up the Tent of Contemplation. Silent electric fans are turning to keep the heat down. More than sixty people of all nationalities have taken a moment to pray silently before an icon of the Virgin Mary and the crucified Christ of San Damiano. The Esplanade has turned into a highway of converging nations. Groups start relaxing on the lawns and burst into song : Italian, Polish, American folk songs can be distinguished.
12 :00 p.m. Hurray ! The telephone lines have been restored and all 10 computers in the Cybercafé are functioning. Half the visitors are discovering the Internet for the first time, the other half comes to see new cool websites, exchange url's with new friends. A group of French kids in the Volunteer corps come out: a bishop from Germany has been showing them the website he's been creating for his diocese. " It was fun discovering his work and what information he wanted to put on his webpage. It made it more interesting to hear the story of the making of his site. Č Another group has been surfing with a research tool and found a site that diffuses ancient melodies of celtic origin: http ://azimut.com.fr/interceltiq. And behind them, another webmaster is explaining to another group of kids the story of the making of his Christian webpages on the ATD Fourth World, or the plight of the abandoned in today's society : http://web.ukonline.co.uk/atd.uk. But the favorite website in the Cybercafé this morning is the VaticanŐs page : http ://www.vatican.va.
1 :00 p.m. Lunchtime on the Esplanade. On all sides there are people sharing a meal, looking for a piece of lawn to sit on for a picnic. It's also lunch hour for the hundreds of people working in the towering skyscrapers of la Défense. A few go into the Tent of Contemplation and pray for half an hour. One worker confides in a nun her joy to see that so many people have the time to add a spiritual dimension to their lives.
2 :00 p.m. The Bettel Band has warmed up and is now in full swing rehearsing for their Wednesday night concert. Groups of arriving WYD travellers are still in line to get their picnic lunches. Others are making their way towards the métro and bus lines to get an early seat for the Welcome Mass presided by Cardinal Lustiger, Archbishop of Paris. In the Tent of Contemplation, a Dominican nun is playing a melody on a cithara. People are leaving the Esplanade. But the tension is still mounting : on the Champs de Mars, a procession of many colors has already begun, setting the signal for the opening liturgy of these WYD !