The situation of today’s young people has “its peculiarities” their lives and circumstances “have changed” with “globalization, new communication technologies, the economic crisis” which can “condition people for the good but also, for the bad”. This is why – according to Archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela ; “the youth of the XXI century needs, even more than previous generations, to find the Lord through the only path that has proven itself spiritually effective: the humble and simple pilgrim seeking His face”.
Welcoming the young Catholics of the world to Madrid, Spain, host city of the XVIth World Youth Day, Cardinal Rouco Varela told them “The intention of the Pope who loves you so much, is precisely this: that you may experience in the Communion of the Catholic Church the truth and the urgency to make the theme of World Youth Day 2011 your life: "rooted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith”.
Plaza de Cibeles, was the setting for the opening Mass – the very same place where this Thursday the young participants will welcome Pope Benedict XVI. The notes of a choir of two hundred hopeful voices filled the hot and humid air, an army of priests transformed the glaring white of the raised altar with their coloured vestments, and the young people created some relief from the asphyxiating temperatures, vigorously waving their flags and banners to move the still air.
The vast congregation stretched for three kilometres beyond the
central square, reaching out into the cities side streets. The flags
reflected the universality of the Church. Prayers of the faithful in
Arabic, in English, for the young artists and the role they play in
spreading the good news, in Japanese, for all of those who die victims
“You are the Benedict XVI generation, which is not the same as John Paul II generation" Cardinal Rouco Varela said. Quoting from the Pope’s message for the Madrid gathering he reflected: “The youth of today, with existential roots weakened by a rampant spiritual and moral relativism “hemmed in” by the dominant power”. “Without solid foundations in life, culture and society, and not rarely, in the family ... it becomes powerfully tempting to go beyond the limits, to the point of losing your direction on the path of life”.
His words were painfully underlined by the site of other young people, standing at the nearest metro stop from which joyful pilgrims spilled, handing out leaflets protesting the WYD gathering and the Church. They were largely politely ignored, until a group of Belgians invited them to follow them to an Iraqi flag indicating the spot where two hundred young people from Baghdad and Mosul – some survivors of sectarian attacks on their community - stood waiting for the mass to begin. By the time the sun set, transforming the white stone of Cibeles square to red, the Catholics and non-Catholics, sat side by side quietly talking. This too is World Youth Day.
Closing the celebration, it was the turn of Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko,
President of the Vatican’s Council for the Laity- chief organisers of
the 26 WYD editions- who said “You have come to this meeting with the
Holy Father Benedict XVI bringing with you all your plans and hopes, as
well as your concerns and apprehensions about the choices that lie
ahead. These will be days that you will never forget, days of important
discoveries and decisions that will be decisive for your future”.
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