Madrid Awaits Pope, 2M Youth

Cardinal Reports on Progress of Preparations

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MADRID, Spain, SEPT. 14, 2009 ( The archbishop of Madrid says he’s preparing to welcome some two million young people for the 2011 World Youth Day — half of whom are expected from outside Spain.

Cardinal Antonio Rouco Varela spoke with the Spanish daily ABC about preparations for the youth event. The preparations were officially kicked off today, feast of the exaltation of the cross, with the beginning of the pilgrimage of the World Youth Day Cross and icon through the archdiocese, and throughout Spain.

The cardinal affirmed that the sites for the main activities with the Pope are already confirmed: the Vigil and closing Mass on Aug. 19 and 20, 2011, will be held at the Cuatro Vientos airport, and the opening Mass to welcome the Pope on Aug. 16 will be held at the Plaza de Cibeles. 

A solemn Way of the Cross is also being considered, to be held Aug. 18 on the Paseo de la Casstellana.

Cardinal Rouco Varela observed that World Youth Days «have conditioned the history of the evangelization of the world’s youth» by helping to create «a distinct youth culture, fresh air for young people’s lives in their environments and ecclesial groups.»

He continued, «For thousands of youth, they have meant an encounter or a re-encounter with the faith; others have discovered their vocations; and all of them have caught sight of ways to be young, to want to live with dignity, with nobility and with clear horizons.»

Under way

The cardinal explained that the organizing committee is already at work, collaborating with the Spanish episcopal conference. 

The committee has already approved the official logo and theme song, and is coordinating catechesis sessions in more than 300 language groups.

According to initial data, more than 1,000 bishops are expected to attend, as will half of the Church’s cardinals.

Families of Madrid will be opening their homes to accommodate pilgrims, though the cardinal acknowledged that this won’t be sufficient to house all of the pilgrims. Thus, every ecclesial institution has been asked to provide every available space, and regional and local government offices have received the same request.

Cardinal Rouco Varela noted the «magnificent response» to this petition, and the «absolute availability.»

Finally, the archbishop mentioned the financial cost of the event, affirming that the majority will come from «private contributions and donations from the faithful.» He also said that there is a need for 15,000 volunteers in the six principal language groups.

«The tradition of the Church in Spain,» the cardinal concluded, «will be a grand and positive novelty for youth from many parts of the world, where the Church is very young, where the great Christian past is languid, or the reality of the contemplative consecrated life that so much attracts youth of our time is not as vigorous as here.»

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