World Youth Day, Budapest 2012
BEFORE – DURING – AFTER
I have been asked to share a few thoughts about one of the greatest experiences of my life. It’s not always easy putting your thoughts on paper but for this experience I want to try.
When I first heard about this festival I had no idea what it was really about. I doubt anyone did. Sister Samia asked a group of us if we wanted to attend and only two of us rose out hands, George Beitis and me. At that point all I had heard was the word Budapest, and as a known travelling lover, I was tempted. However, I came close to not going. Due to lack of funds I tried to get out of it. That problem was easily resolved when His Excellency Youssef Soueif, the Archbishop of Maronites in Cyprus, offered to cover half of the expenses for both me and George. That was the ultimate selling point for me.
Our group gathered only once before departing for Budapest. Among strangers, with the exception of George, I felt oddly at ease. Mrs. Lina Mikellidou of the focolare movement,responsible for the genfest in Cyprus,welcomed all of us into her home and made us feel welcome. She talked about Focolare Movement and Genfest and I got my first taste of just how big this really was. When I went home I googled the info she gave us and I started seeing things a little better. I thought I understood what I would experience in Budapest. I was wrong. Things were even better!
Budapestis a beautiful city. Getting there a few days prior to the festival gave us the opportunity to explore the city. Going from Buda to Pest and vice-versa, we got to know both the old and the new parts of the city. Along with our counterparts from Greece and Turkey, we went through the city on foot. Filled with incredible historical monuments including both palaces, the parliament and Saint Stephens Basilica, beautiful parks and squares, the whole amazing culture of the Hungarian people is something everyone should experience at least once in their lives. Even so, the real fun began at the festival.
It wasn’t the first time in my life I found myself among fifteen thousand people. But it was the first time I saw them having so much fun. Some were singing, others were playing musical instruments, dancing or playing games; some were parading trying to meet new people and take their photograph with them while others were lying on the grass exploiting the great weather; a few had set up counters with their countries’ most famous memorabilia and were proudly showing them to people and inviting them close so they could give them a taste of their own culture with snacks and drinks. In the midst of all this, our small group did a little of everything. We sang and danced, we played games and met new people; we snacked and drank and got to know about a lot of countries. Hundreds of photos prove our group’s determination to find and photograph all the flags and countries in attendance. Most importantly, though, we had a lot of fun.
The ceremony which took place during the festival gave us the opportunity to get to know Focolare Movement better. Through speeches, songs, dances, and personal stories we understood the deeper meaning of Genfest. It’s not only about fun and games. United we are stronger to do God’s will and we should try our best and be strong enough to do what He wants from us. He will give us all we need to succeed. We must only be ready. The Holy Mass which ended the festival took place on our last day in Budapest and none of us could ask for a better closing. It was one of the most beautiful liturgies I have ever had the opportunity to attend to. Looking around and seeing fifteen thousand young people singing hymns is definitely a memory I will treasure forever.
Genfest was definitely an experience I would recommend to everyone. It’s a great opportunity to explore a new city, meet new people, make new friends and experience something so powerful, so inspirational that will make you see the world and appreciate what you have in a whole new way. Genfest gives you the chance to compare lifestyles of people of all ages from all around the world and realize that deep down we are all alike. Whether we are Catholics, Orthodox, Muslims or Buddhists, we all want the same things. We want unity to accomplish our goals and we need God to guide us to the right path.
Member of Pastoral Youth Team