“With all my heart, I say again to you young people: let
nothing and no one take away your peace; do not be ashamed of the Lord”.
This is the message that Pope Benedict XVI has brought to Spain and to
the young Catholics of the world, resonant of that other great call “do
not be afraid” launched by the founder and patron of all World Youth
Days, Blessed Pope John Paul II. Pope Benedict XVI’s generation has
found its motto : do not be ashamed of the Lord.
The papal plane touched down at Barajas International airport in Madrid shortly before midday Thursday, marking the official start of the four day visit. After days of torrid heat, cooler temperatures and a light sprinkling of rain greeted the Pope as he emerged from the plane, to the joy of the young people waiting patiently behind security barriers and a marked police presence. Security has been stepped up across the capital following clashes between the police and protesters against the papal visit on Wednesday evening.
“World Youth Day brings us a message of hope like a pure and youthful breeze, with rejuvenating scents”, he told them “which fill us with confidence before the future of the Church and the world”.
As protocol demands, Pope Benedict was greeted first by the Apostolic Nuncio to Spain, Archbishop Renzo Fratini. At the foot of the plane, King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain waited to welcome him while the military bands struck up the National anthem, La marcha real. A curious sight also greeted the Pope on reaching the raised podium that of 60 miniture Swiss Guards, young Spaniards dressed in exact replicas of the famous uniforms of the Papal guard standing to attention beneath the dais.
King Juan Carlos, who despite recent surgery insisted on being present, then addressed the Holy Father on behalf of his nation: “Holy Father, you are back in Spain for the second time, our young people are waiting for you with open arms”.
Then it was Pope Benedict XVI’ turn to speak to the people of Spain and he began by thanking them: “A very grateful greeting goes to those who, with such commitment and dedication, from the ecclesiastical and civil spheres, have contributed with their efforts and work” for World Youth Day in Madrid”. In particular, he thanked “with all my heart” the families, parishes, schools and other institutions that for their hospitality in welcoming young people from all over the world.
However, even though this 4 day visit is also a state visit, there
was no escaping the main focus of the Pope’s presence in Spain, the 26th
World Youth Day . He said, “young followers of Jesus must be aided to
remain firm in the faith”, without hiding their Christian identity,
“living together with other legitimate choices in a spirit of respect
while at the same time demanding due respect for one’s own choices”.
The Pope addressed the challenges of today’s world, a “prevailing superficiality, consumerism and hedonism, the widespread banalization of sexuality, the lack of solidarity, the corruption”. He spoke of the concerns specific to young people: world conflicts, the undermining of the value of the human person because of “selfish, material and ideological interests”; environmental degradation, uncertainty over their future, an increasingly precarious workplace, drug abuse. “There are even some”, said Pope Benedict “who because of their faith in Christ, suffer discrimination which leads to contempt and persecution, open or hidden, which they endure in various regions and countries. They are harassed to give him up, depriving them of the signs of his presence in public life, not allowing even the mention of his holy name”. To them he said “again he said to them; do not be ashamed of the Lord. He did not spare himself in becoming one like us and in experiencing our anguish so as to lift it up to God, and in this way he saved us”.
Concluding the Pope paid tribute to the countless men and women missionaries who left their homeland to bring the Gospel to all four corners of the world, inviting Spaniards to care constructively for this “great treasure”
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