World Youth Day organisers are preparing for next year’s event in Madrid with the help of Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
Auxiliary Bishop Cesar Franco Martinez of Madrid, the general co-ordinator of the event in August, said social networking sites were key outlets “for raising awareness, mobilising, communicating and financing World Youth Day”.
Bishop Franco and others spoke at a Vatican news conference on the preparations involved in next year’s gathering.
Maria de Jaureguizar, vice director of communications for World Youth Day 2011, said: “It will be a WYD that is fully immersed in the internet, the place where young people today meet.
She said: “All information and all promotional materials can be found on the official website [www.madrid11.com].” Interested participants can plan and “interact” on special pages and accounts organisers have set up on a variety of social networking sites, she said.
This week there were more than 165,000 fans of World Youth Day on Facebook, she said. WYD organisers set up 19 separate Facebook accounts in different languages, including Chinese and Arabic.
Organisers also established a special telephone number where people in Spain can send a text message to donate $1.60 toward a “solidarity fund” that will enable youths from poorer countries to participate. All registrants are also being asked to contribute $14 to the same fund.
Bishop Franco said they launched a fundraising website, www.muchasgracias.info, where donors from all over the world can contribute any amount they wish either to a general fund or for specific items and initiatives such as liturgical objects or housing and feeding volunteers.
Cardinal Antonio Rouco Varela of Madrid said many businesses had helped out as sponsors and government agencies were showing “maximum collaboration” in working with the Church to make the event a success.
He said 20,000 volunteers would be “the backbone of World Youth Day”, helping shuttle pilgrims from airports and train stations.
Numerous families in Madrid will be opening their homes to offer young people a place to stay, the cardinal said, while schools, gyms and churches will also serve as no-frills accommodations.
Bishop Franco said so far 170,000 young people have registered, and they expect 600,000 to register before the event. He said only 25 to 30 per cent of those who take part in World Youth Day events actually register for the gathering. Online registration can be done at www.madrid11.com.
De Jaureguizar said those who are unable to attend World Youth Day in Madrid could participate virtually by watching their web TV coverage and following along with news and people’s testimonies on their social networking sites.