The Pope's annual address to the Roman Curia, which the mainstream press stupidly touted as an assault on gay marriage (follow the link and search for "gay" and "homosexual" and when you're done search for "matrimony" and see what he really said), was actually a meditation on the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church and the world which also contained this defense of World Youth Day from a man who some Catholics seem to think is opposed to WYD-type gatherings:
In particular, the phenomenon of the World Youth Days is always the subject of analysis, in which there the attempt is made to understand this kind of event, so to speak, of youth culture. Australia had never seen before so many people from every continent as during the World Youth Day, not even at the time of the Olympics. And if beforehand the fear existed that the presence of such a mass of young people could bring with it some risk to public order, paralysis of traffic, upset to daily routine, provocation to violence and the occasion for drugs, all of this was shown to be without foundation. It was a feast of joy - a joy which finally embraced the reluctant: in the final analysis, no one felt threatened. The days became a celebration for everyone, rather only then did we take full account of what a feast was - an occasion in which everyone is, as it were, outside of themselves, beyond their very selves, and in truth with themselves and with the others.
What and wherefore was the nature of this success of the World Youth Day? What were the forces which drove it? Popular analyses tend to look on these days as a variant of modern youth culture, like a kind of rock festival, modified in church wise, with the Pope like a star. With or without faith, this festival is at root always the same thing, and so the question of God can be sidelined. There are also Catholic voices which move in this direction, seeing it all as a great spectacle, even beautiful, with having little significance for the question of faith and the presence of the gospel in our time. They could be moments of festive ecstasy, which however when all is said and done leave things as they were, having no bearing in any depth on life itself.
With this, however, the peculiar nature of such days and the particular character of their joy, their creative force for communion, find no explanation. Above all, it is important to take account of the fact that the World Youth Days do not consist of one single week in which they become public and visible to the world. There is both a long external and internal journey leading to them. The cross, accompanied by the image of the Mother of the Lord, goes on pilgrimage in different lands. Faith, in its own way, feels the need to see and to touch. The encounter with the cross, which is touched and carried, becomes an interior encounter with Him who died on the cross for us. The encounter with the cross arouses in the depths of youth the memory of that God who willed to become man and suffer with us. And we see the woman whom He has given us as Mother. The solemn Youth Days are only the culmination of a long journey, along which they meet one another and together they go to Christ. In Australia, not fortuitously, the long Way of the Cross through the city became the culminating event of those days. It recapitulated once more all that had taken place in the preceding years and pointed to the One who unites us all together: the God who loves us to the extent of the Cross. And so even the Pope is not the star around which everything happens. He is simply and solely Vicar. He defers to Another who stands in our midst.
Finally, the solemn liturgy is the centre of everything, because there takes place in it what we are unable to accomplish and of which, however, we are always in expectation. He is present. He enters into our midst. Heaven is rent, and this makes the earth glow. It is this which makes life joyful and open and unites one to another in a joy which cannot be compared to the joy of a rock festival. Friedrich Nietzsche said on one occasion: "The ability is not to be found in organising a festival, but in finding people who can enjoy it." According to Scripture, joy is the fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22): this fruit was abundantly visible during those days in Sydney. Just as a long journey preceded the World Day of Youth, so successive journeys flowed from it. Friendships were forged which encouraged a single, diverse style of life and supported it from within. The great days have, not as their ultimate reason, the intention to create such friendships and in this way they bring about areas of life in faith, which are simultaneously arenas of hope and of a charity experienced.