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WYD 2011: Madrid will never forget these scenes of devotion

Catholics young and old dance in the streets ahead of the Pope’s arrival

By on Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Pilgrims fill Madrid's Plaza de Cibeles for the opening Mass of World Youth Day (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Pilgrims fill Madrid's Plaza de Cibeles for the opening Mass of World Youth Day (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Yesterday evening I was privileged to attend the opening Mass of the 26th World Youth Day in the Plaza de Cibeles in Madrid with hundreds of thousands of other young Catholics.

Notting Hill Carnival could not compete with the vivacity and excitement demonstrated last night by the Church’s young, despite the intense heat and bustle. In an atmosphere of potential chaos, tempered by pure devotion, Madrid witnessed scenes that will forever remain in its memory.

In the middle of London’s equivalent of the Strand both young and old packed the streets, dancing, singing, chanting and, moments later, kneeling in humble reverence to adore God and prepare for their hero, Pope Benedict XVI.

The opening Mass was in memory of Blessed John Paul II and there can be no doubt that this pope is ingrained in the hearts of the faithful. Video clips of John Paul II on big screens around the centre were greeted with shouts, cheers and cries.

He was, according to Cardinal Antonio Rouco Varela of Madrid, the “pope of the young people” and “young people are the hope and future of the entire Church”.

The Archbishop of Madrid dedicated much of his homily to describing the late pope’s life, which was marked by the challenges and trials confronted by this extraordinary man who “lived the truth that God is with us”. Speaking directly to the youth present, the archbishop said: “You are the generation of Pope Benedict XVI.” His words were greeted by eager applause.

It’s clear that Cardinal Varela grasps the political significance of World Youth Day in a Catholic country governed by an administration which shows minimal sympathy for the Church and its values.

Throughout his homily the archbishop shrewdly asserted that Spain could not be understood without its Catholic heritage and that Catholic tradition forms the character of the nation. The tone of the
archbishop’s address is surely an indicator that World Youth Day arrives at an opportune time for the Spanish Church and will boost its morale.

But of course this is primarily a pastoral occasion and the archbishop emphasised to pilgrims that on their journey God would find them. He called on them to accept the challenge of the New Evangelisation. He told them that they would find God in the Eucharist, among the poor and in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Given the courage and wisdom that Benedict XVI showed during his visit to Britain, I doubt the Pope will waste any time in using the incredible demonstration of faith by the young to remind the
current government that the Church is integral to the character and values of Spanish democracy.

The opening Mass has set the tone for Pope Benedict’s arrival on Thursday. This week will be instrumental in reinforcing Spain’s national character as it stands at a crossroads in its history.

  • Jeannine

    Pray for the spiritual success of this WYD. Just read from another blog that there will be approximately 50,000 pilgrims from France, many who are not practicing Catholics.———-> Because of this, pray also that sacrilege doesn’t occur.

  • Michael McManus

    How can you be please by this when every catholic priest is a liar, And if any priest wants to sue me i will prove my words in a court of law

  • Anonymous

    Bemused: This is a report [and a somewhat insubstantial one] ; so why is it in comments and blogs?

  • Anonymous

    Congratulations on perhaps the most proposterous comment I’ve read on this site . . . quite some achievement. Please do share some examples with us of how you would prove it? Do bearing in mind that the onus of proof would be on you, saying that the priest cannot prove what he is saying is not good enough. I’m really looking forward to your response.

  • Anonymous

    Keep taking the medicine Mike and lie down in a darkened room with an icepack wrapped in a towel on your forehead.

  • Anonymous

    Why don’t the secular news sites get it?  The joyous sight of many hundreds of thousands of young Catholics from across the world, intermingled with local adherents in Spain’s Capital  city, exuberantly expressing their shared Faith seems to be lost on the editors and reporters of the Western media.  Their strap-lines seem to consist of nothing more than free publicity for the militant outbursts of the atheistic and liberal malcontents who are using the manufactured anger generated by the putative costs of the event, to vent their spleen at the positions of the Pope and the Church.   Balance is very much needed here but it seems to be in short supply at the moment.

  • Michael McManus

    Why dont you like the truth , The catholic religion is built on lies , But that does not matter to some one who has been brainwashed from childhood

  • Michael McManus

    I would use the bible

  • Anonymous

    The truth seems a stranger to you when one reads the wild and unsubstantiated allegations that you make. The Catholic Church was built by Her founder, Jesus Christ on the Truth of His Message.  Today unfortunately, we see the bad fruits of seed that falls on stony ground as typified by scandalous behavior on the part of some of the membership of that same body.  But this does not obscure the reality of the message that the Church preaches in and out of season.

  • Michael McManus

    If you read the bible you will see my alligations are factual, Can you tell me when jesus said it was ok to cover up child abuse, The pope does just that and every priest supports that same as you do

  • Michael McManus

    can you tell me where in the bible does it say you have to go into confessional , Can you tell me where in the bible does it say some one has to forgive if they were hurt as a child,

  • Jeomattam

    Why should a Priest sue you my brother… just by not taking you to the court they prove what they preach that love your neighbour as yourself.. At the end of the day its not a priest, not the Pope, not the church but you yourself is going to lose the eternal reward offered to us… There are things that science couldnt prove or solve… there is no medicine for Aids yet.. does that mean Aids is not there…

  • Anonymous

    Where is the factual proof that this pope covered up the terrible crime of sex abuse? In fact there is no “smoking gun” proof and Pope Benedict XV11 has done more than all his predecessors to face this terrible scourge full in the face. In 2001 as the head of the Congregation for the Defense Of The Faith  a Cardinal, he successfully persuaded then now Blessed Pope John Paul 11 to allow him to take charge of dealing with the global sex-abuse issue.   He requested this because of the totally inadequate approach then to this matter and the need to expedite justice for the victims. Last year he considerably tightened up the procedures in canon law to punish any priest credibly found to have abused a minor and has personally met up with abuse victims a number of times during his apostolic visits around the world.  
    You also make the ridiculous claim that every priest as well as myself support the cover-up of abuse.  That statement is really beneath contempt and not worthy of comment

  • Honeybadger

    Oh, catch yourself on and chop that oversized chip off your shoulder!

    It will take some time…  

  • Honeybadger

    What for? To bash the bejapers out of it? To use it as a prop for a wonky table? As a spitoon? A coaster for your pint of bitter (yeah, a pint of bitter is more suited to your palate!)

    Because that is exactly what you are doing to The Holy Bible, you sad, bitter and twisted little person!

  • Michael McManus

    , In not the only person says the pope covered up child rape one of their own does, Who is a canon law lawyer,  His words ratzingers office  sent 10 sexualy abusing priest to one diocese, And he was asked to sort this out and he refused, And NO one from the vatican has called him a liar , Hes been defrocked because he does not support those who covered up child rape like the pope does and you ,  The thing thats head of the church ireland admits covering up child abuse,  HIS NAME brady Has the pope removed him from office NO, so in keeping him as a cardinal the pope says it is ok to cover up child rape,  abuse, That is the type of person you support ,

  • Anonymous

    Sadly I think the irony of your comment is probably beyond you, given that the Bible is what most people swear on in Court to prove that they are telling the truth.

  • CatholicDeacon

    Can you tell me where in the bible it says that if it is not in the bible it can not be a Church practice? 

  • CatholicDeacon

    Can you tell me where in the bible it says that if it is not in the bible it can not be a Church practice? 

  • Nat_ons

    Into confessional is the custom, the teaching is based on a call to the presbyter .. this may be in the privacy of one’s own home, on one’s death bed, in one’s prison cell, through one’s trail in the wilds – or, believe it or not, in a church-owned building (if this is suitable for the privacy required by the church’s custom in ordinary circumstances for reconciling a penitent sinner, aware of his disease and the danger of eternal not merely fleshly death).

    “Are any among you suffering? They should pray. Are any cheerful? They should sing songs of praise. Are any among you sick? They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.” Jam 2 : 13-16.
    The conventual self-accusation in monastic use, from past days, seems closer to this than the current isolated, even interpersonal, prayer form (what you seem to mean, presumably, by going into confession). I suspect, however, few all too ordinary ordinary sinners would relish being expected to set out their sins, failings and troubles in public before the whole parish community – other than the public exhibitionists, of course, who should not be given an aggrandising platform for their sin. Whatever the custom of use it is the principle of use that is set out as Christian doctrine and offered in the orthodoxy of Rome’s Catholicism; sin causes suffering, on this we must pray, sin is a dis-ease with self and this abiding, close-clinging, gnawing, devouring sickness is not self-treated but committed to God in the fellowship of Christ’s whole body .. in the person of the presbyter; one who has, in apostolic commission: the call to absolve sin (to lose or to bind it; for confession of sin does not automatically guarantee its absolution, the presbyterate may refuse this on good grounds: impenitence, abuse of the Sacrament, refusal of the conditions for reconciliation with the Church = due penance).

  • D Stables

    Please read this article I wrote based on WYD. I welcome any feedback! Thanks.


    There were Twelve Appostles and one was Judas. It is only a small number of priests who have committted these unspeakable crimes.

    I`m sick and tired of Catholic bashing, Pope bashing and priest bashing and tainting one and all with undeserved shame. If your brother  committed rape, would it be fair to associate you with him ? If your father or mother committed incest, would it be just to taint and stigmatize all parents ?

    Fairness and Justice demand that you do not tar everyone with the same brush  and that you acknowledge that  the Catholic Church is doing  more than any other institution to clean up this scourge.
    Which brings me to the final point-  if you really cared about the young, you should be turning your guns on the world out there where corruption of the young is so rife but not so much as a a word is breathed about it in the media. 

  • paul smith uk


  • Brad H.

    This was a very successful event! I’m really glad the true spirit of being a Christian is very much alive on the hearts younger generations.