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Seekers of Peace

· Pope meet sixty thousand altar servers ·

They are between 13 and 23 years old and they move in large groups through the streets of Rome’s city centre in their hats and bermuda shorts, armed only with their water bottles to fight the mugginess of recent days. They are the 60,000 altar servers who on Tuesday, 31 July, met the Pope in Saint Peter’s Square on the occasion of their 12th international pilgrimage. Responding to an invitation by Coetus Internationalis Ministrantium Coetus (CIM), the International Association for altar boys and girls, some of the young pilgrims, who come from 19 countries, arrived a few days earlier and participated in the Sunday Angelus. Out of the 60,000 pilgrims, some 50,000 of them are from Germany. Without the contribution of Germany, three countries would not have been able to participate because - as CIM President Bishop Ladislav Nemet, SVD, explained in a press conference on Monday, 30 July - “in three of them, financial difficulties did not allow the diocese to organize the trip”. However, he added “we have different languages, we have different songs, dances, prayers coming from different nations but we have one single motto and a logo”. The motto was inspired by the words in Psalm 34:14: “seek peace and pursue it”. As the German Bishops’ Conference pointed out, this is particularly appropriate for a time when so many people are longing for peace, but at the same time so many threats to peace seem to be appearing on the horizon. Marked by populism and nationalism, the world calls for peace and we want to contribute to this universal cause, beginning with the younger generations so that they may live in a world without barriers.

The program includes moments of prayer, liturgy, spiritual encounters in various churches throughout Rome, as well as places to relax such as trips to the seaside, a street art event called “spray and pray” and a blind date on Wednesday, 1 August to bring together in three squares, altar servers from different groups chosen randomly via social media. This was a necessary update to be in step with the current times. CIM Vice President Klára Csizár recalled that the CIM initiative was conceived as Vatican Council II was underway and in the midst of the cold war, when John XXIII received altar servers in 1962, in order to bring a sign of peace to European countries which, at that time, were divided into two blocs.

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St. Peter’s Square

March 22, 2019

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