While hundreds of thousands of young Roman Catholics sing and dance their way through World Youth Day festivities, some start each morning in silent prayer attending the rarely celebrated old Latin Mass.
It was standing room only in the large Saint Antonius church in Duesseldorf, one of several venues for the Catholic youth jamboree centred in nearby Cologne, as over 300 young believers gathered on Wednesday morning for Mass in the ancient language.
The traditional liturgy, almost forgotten since the Church switched to vernacular tongues for its services, is full of reverent rituals and ornate vestments which were put aside as outdated after the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965).
But these traditions are making a quiet comeback among a tiny minority of young Catholics who find the strict Roman rite more sacred and prayerful than the loud guitars and chatty priests they see in their local parishes.
Pope Benedict, who arrives in Cologne on Thursday to head the first World Youth Day since the death of his charismatic predecessor John Paul last April, has long argued that the old Mass should be more widely available to those who want it.
'There is so much depth and richness and tradition in this Mass,' said Andrea Nolan, 27, a teacher from Oklahoma City.
'This is the same Mass that saints like Ignatius of Loyola and Catherine of Siena heard,' said another American, recent law graduate Matthew Dalrymple, 26.
'We don't understand everything, but we know what it means,' said Hary Soerijanto, an Indonesian now studying in Berlin.
Bishop Fernando Areas Rifan from Campos in Brazil, who celebrated the Mass, even began a short sermon in Latin to a hushed congregation straining to pick out familiar words.
Relief spread throught the pews when he repeated his address in German, French, English, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese. 'NOTHING WISHY-WASHY ABOUT IT'
Although it was never banned by the Vatican, the Latin Mass has become a bone of contention among Catholics, with devotion to it often seen as so traditionalist or nostalgic that many parishes refuse to offer it.
The fact that some excommunicated schismatic groups cling to the Latin Mass has also put off some loyal Catholics.
'There is a lot of suspicion in Switzerland, because one of these groups has its seminary there in Econe,' said Raphael Waldis, 19, who regularly attends Latin Mass at his home in Bulle. 'But we're not schismatics. The Vatican allows this.'
In 1988, Pope John Paul urged bishops around the world to provide some Latin liturgy if congregations wanted it. Latin Mass societies sprung up in some countries to lobby for it.
'We support people who want to ask their bishop to offer it,' said Robert Lane, an Irish student from County Galway.
Adrian O'Boyle, another Irish student from County Mayo, said the timeless permanence of the Latin Mass attracted young people to it. 'There's nothing wishy-washy about it,' he said.
A new movement called Juventutem – Latin for 'youth', its main constituency – organised the Latin Masses and other traditional devotions here, the first time they have featured among the modern rites that most young Catholics prefer.
About 800 pilgrims with Juventutem came from France and 200 from other countries, French traditionalist priest Fr. Jean-Marie Robinne said after the service here.
'Most of these French youths come from families that have always attended Latin Mass,' he said.
Several prelates, including Cardinals Francis George of Chicago, George Pell of Sydney and Francis Arinze of Nigeria, have agreed to lead Latin prayers here with Juventutem.