[JMJ 97 - Le Cyberjournal]

750,000 For A Papal Baptism Vigil

Guess who's coming for prayer, or: chronicle of a racetrack vigil

THERE are more of us than expected." In other words, please make room for those waiting to get in! Not surprising that Bishop Dubost, President of the the paris WYD events, should make this appeal barely one hour before the Baptismal Vigil was scheduled to begin. Close to a million people squeezed into the Longchamp racetrack lawn where days before "only" 500,000 were expected. Tempers flared momentarily as arrivals tried to claim space, but as the Paris orchestra exploded into praise with the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah, the typical WYD spirit of good cheer and festivity quickly reestablished itself.

Music as prayer

Conductor Myung Whun Chung, formerly with the orchestra of Paris' Opéra-Bastille, invited everyone to join in to sing all the pieces on the programme during the concert that preluded last night's baptism. Music is a gift of God, he said, as well as a language. It could unite people of all languages. More than that, the pieces played in Saturday's pre-vigil concert were prayers just like the celebration that was to follow.

Join together for love

Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli (photo) and the choir of Santa Cecilia from Rome performed such classical favourites as Schubert's Ave Maria, César Franck's Panis Angelicus and the Chorus of Slaves from Verdi's Nabucco. The American singer Dee Dee Bridgewater (photo) closed the concert with a song especially composed for the event: "I believe that all people from all nations can join in together for love." Just the right sort of text to introduce the paschal liturgy that was to follow and that would culminate in Sunday morning Mass where the number of participants peaked at just over 1 million.

Paul-Dominique Masiclat