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WYD 2011: Benedict XVI in Spain: ‘a meek man of mighty action’

Madeleine Teahan describes her experience of Pope Benedict XVI’s first day in Spain

By on Friday, 19 August 2011

WYD 2011: Benedict XVI in Spain: ‘a meek man of mighty action’

Walking back from Cibeles yesterday night, I felt like I was witnessing a mass exodus from a Spanish Glastonbury. Thousands of people crawled along the streets: hot, sweaty and some covered with dirt, but dancing, chanting, singing and banging drums.

My hero, Bruce Springsteen, headlined Glastonbury a few years ago, but after contemplating festival living I decided I wouldn’t give up my creature comforts, even for Bruce. Yet there I was, with dirty knees and smudged mascara like everyone else, staring up at the face of an 83-year-old man, beaming at him, wide-eyed, like a doting mother at her child’s Nativity play.

Pilgrims pushed past me with cameras and iPhones eagerly awaiting a glimpse of the Pontiff as he drove by in his famous Popemobile. Some giggled hysterically. Others waited in contemplative, quiet dignity, fingering rosary beads and praying in the silence of their hearts.

A few hours after the King of Spain had greeted the Pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Cibeles, and we watched the mayor of Madrid hand the keys of the city to him, indicating trust and respect. The King was to become one of the many heads of state to speak of their excitement and awe at meeting the Pope. (President Obama is a recent example.)

What grates on so many opponents of Pope Benedict is that for a man of such humility he effortlessly commands respect from the mighty and the lowly. Why? Because he is a natural-born leader. From the moment Pope Benedict stepped on Spanish soil, he used unique and bold language, appealing to the young not to be ashamed of their faith and daring them to celebrate the existence of an objective moral truth.

History books will show that Benedict is not afraid to acknowledge crisis, or to implement solutions, which is the mark of a true leader. From his handling of the clerical abuse crisis since 2001 to his pragmatic response to rifts within the Church of England, Benedict is a meek man of mighty action. While the rest of the world plays trust exercises in their bunkers, Benedict tells it like it is and, more importantly, is prepared to act.

Yesterday’s scenes of devotion to Pope Benedict XVI comprehensively challenge the conventional wisdom about how to command attention and respect from young people. The youth of today are crying out for boundaries, not fluffy relativism; they are reaching out for the firm hand of a loving father, not the reassuring shoulder squeeze of the simpering life coach.

Last night, a young member of the Personal Ordinariate sang the Gospel beautifully and his presence was a powerful demonstration of the fruits of Benedict’s leadership. The young people who have joined the Personal Ordinariate demonstrate Pope Benedict’s fidelity to the Catholic Church, his sincerity in trying to promote truth and ability to grasp the level of compromise necessary and conducive to its promotion. That’s what makes this Pontiff so deeply revered.

I imagine this strong leader will continue to refer to ‘truth’ throughout his time in Spain to the young people gathered in Madrid. In doing so, he is teaching us that truth doesn’t hurt, as the saying goes. Rather, it invites and inspires.

  • Adam

    Viva Papa Benedictus!

  • Jgjguadalupe

    ”There are an estimated 1.1 billion Roman Catholics in the world, compared with 1.5 billion Muslims and nearly 600 million Protestants”…
    True, there are 1.5 billion Muslims, but how many of them are ‘true Muslims’ (since Muslims call people like Bin Laden, which make up at least 50% of the 1.5 billion, as ‘not true Muslims’) and how many of them are forbidden by the sharia to change their religion? So, the ’1.5 billion’ Muslims is false (as Islam is false). VIVA PAPA BENEDICTUS!

  • Stanley J

    a nazi sympathiser who unexcommunicated Bishop williamson, a holocaust denier

    A nazi like church thatg has yet to excommunciate the worst murder in history – a catholic born and baptized such in austria in 1888.     see site     Pictures that should make you puke if you are catholic .

  • Stanley J

    Dont let the big show fool you. by the churches own admission, only about 14% of French catholics actually go to church.  About 13-15 % in spain.

    this is just a big show to fool you that the church of the worst crimes in history is almost dead in Europe, dying in latin america etc etc

    yes there is a god, just not ratzi’s god

  • Anonymous

    You have a poor grasp of theology and history, Stan ole bean..  The Williamson affair was an error of judgement by Benedict who was not aware of that controversial interview on Swedish television prior to his decision to rescind the excommunication of Williamson. He humbly apologized to the World’s bishops in a letter for this lapse in judgement and then appropriately removed the canonical right for Williamson to act in the role of bishop until such  time as he fully recognized Vatican 11 and renounced his Holocaust-denying views.
    As for Hitler, he had long since divested himself of any lingering Catholicism  by the time he came to power in 1933. He had excommunicated himself( Latæ sententiæ) by the horrific atrocities that his regime carried out, besides the odious, racist philosophy that it embodied.

  • Anonymous

    Your ridiculous charge that our present pope was a nazi sympathizer does not tally with the historical record.  Like all German young males of his generation, Josef Ratzinger was conscripted (against his will) into the hitler youth.  Near the end of the War, he managed to escape the attentions of the commander of his anti-aircraft battery and tried to make his way back to the seminary, only to be greeted by advancing U.S troops.  When the pope has spoken about the effects of nazism on Germany, he made no bones about his abhorrence of it.  He has continued the ground-breaking work done by his great predecessor, the Blessed Pope John Paul 11 in terms of strengthening the bonds between Catholics and Jews around the world.

    You should brush up on your grammar and spelling as well, Stan, old bean.

  • Jason

    Well written and captures the essence of World Youth Day, Pope Benedict XVI, and our longing for Christ.


  • Elle

    Thank you for this beautiful article! Nothing beats the experience from actual presence in the street. We here in Manila are following everything on the net and TV. Good thing despite hackers bringing down the official WYD website, so many news companies transmit minute by minute reports.

  • Adam G

    well, yes the pope is revered and honoured by Heads of State and Government. After all he is the head of a sovereign, though very tiny, city state.  He is an impressive theologian and was a cardinal for over 25 years before being elected pope in 2005. He was a Vatican bureacrat for that time. But Benedict XVI is not a natural born leader. No. the man is shy, timid in many ways,not assertive with those around him and his body language is that of a man not at ease in public gatherings where he has to meet people. Whereas the great John Paul II left his security behind and never allowed them to stop him meeting and touching people, this pope is kept clear of people. Watching the tv last evening I was stunned as once again his vatican police stopped bishops even touching the pope as he came by, I have seen this done countless times with priesta  and religious. Youth are kept at a distance – never close. Only selected adults and youth get near to him. This never happend under his predecessor. Why – the personality issue.  JPII was a strong, vibrant man who WAS  a natural born leader. The only one of all the pontiffs of the last century.
    Benedict is a holy man. He is a devout and amazing teacher that the Church needs.
    But no, not a natural born leader.
    Holiness does not coincide with leadership. Being a great theological teacher does not make for a leader.  The great hermit farhers were not leaders. They went away to the desert to find God. The people had to seek them out.

  • Concerned Catholic

    We all know the Church in Europe is declining in Europe, but I must point out that the Church is actually increasing throughout the world.  Furthermore, WYD is a tremendous source of grace for many young people as well as adults.  Many young people will treat WYD as a party and forget all about the faith when they return, but I am certain that this week’s festivities will plant the seeds of faith in the hearts of many young people.