Approximately 25,000 young people and seminarians from around the United States participated in a youth rally with Pope Benedict XVI on the grounds of Saint Joseph Seminary in Yonkers, New York.
The youth rally was preceded by a concert featuring local choirs as well as such nationally known performers as Kelly Clarkson, Third Day, Salvador, Toby Mac, Three Graces, Father Joseph Espaillat, Father Stan Fortuna, Fragile Tomorrow, and Full Armor.
Following his meeting with young persons with disabilities in the seminary chapel, the Holy Father traveled to the rally stage by Popemobile.
The Holy Father personally greeted the seminarians, religious men and women, and others standing in the front row. Cardinal Egan welcomed the Holy Father and Pope Benedict gave him a chasuble as a remembramce of the visit.
Some youth representatives presented him with gifts of bread representing the cultural diversity of those present. Other young people then presented Pope Benedict with gifts in honor of his birthday and the anniversary of his election. These gifts included a spiritual bouquet, a book entitled Empire State Catholics: A History of the Catholic Community in New York State, and images of six holy individuals who lived or served in New York: Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, Saint Francis Xavier Cabrini, Saint John Neumann, Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, Venerable Pierre Toussaint, and Padre Felix Varela. Those gathered sang “Happy Birthday” in German as well as other songs.
The Holy Father gave a brief address. He spoke of the importance of Christian witness, reminding the young people of the examples of the persons whose portraits he has received. Though very different, each of their lives was a journey of hope. The Holy Father spoke movingly of the challenges faced in the Germany of his youth. He thanked God that young people today can grow up in freedom. Still, there is darkness in our world today: dreams are shattered and people are treated as objects; truth is manipulated and the perception of reality is distorted.
Pope Benedict encouraged the young people to follow the path of truth and freedom that leads to happiness. He invited the young people to follow the example of the saints and to devote themselves to personal prayer and silence, liturgical prayer, charity in action, and vocations. The Holy Father addressed special words to the seminarians and to the religious men and women present.
Pope Benedict then gave a brief summary of his address in Spanish.
Following the address, all sang a Litany of the Saints and the Lord’s Prayer. Cardinal Egan presented fifteen young people to the Holy Father. Pope Benedict blessed all those assembled.
Kelly Clarkson sang the “Ave Maria.” The Holy Father then left the rally field in the Popemobile.
The text of the Holy Father’s address is available here.