MADRID, Spain, AUG. 19, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The director of the Vatican press office says a few protesters have not been able to affect the normal progress of World Youth Day.
Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi today gave an overview of Youth Day thus far, saying that Benedict XVI is doing very well and is content with how the trip to Spain is going.
Regarding the protests Wednesday and Thursday at the Puerta del Sol, the Jesuit said that the “Church is in favor of free expression” and “distinct opinions can be expressed,” as long as this is done with respect. He said the Holy See is not concerned about the protests affecting WYD.
Some of the protesters voiced opposition to the WYD because of its cost, particularly as Spain faces economic difficulties. Both WYD organizers and the Spanish government have already clarified, however, that the event is not funded with public monies.
Yago de la Cierva, the director of WYD organization, said the protesters fall into two groups — those misinformed about the finances, and “secularists” opposed to the event itself.
De la Cierva suggested that the presence of these groups highlight the success of World Youth Day. “Shadows are necessary to appreciate the light,” he said, observing that the world has been able to see the difference in behavior between the protesters and the pilgrims. “The decision of which group one prefers is up to each individual.”
Father Lombardi emphasized one element from today’s papal schedule: the Pontiff’s talk to university professors.
The address was in line with the Holy Father’s reputation as a “man of knowledge and reflection,” the spokesman said, explaining that the address integrated other papal discourses on the relation between science and faith.
“I don’t remember a discourse more beautiful, more powerful than this one from the Holy Father,” the Jesuit commented, “precisely on the theme of the integral formation of man.”
Father Lombardi also noted the Way of the Cross celebrated this evening. Each station was marked with sculptures of enormous historical and artistic worth used in the celebrations of Holy Week, he explained.
Father Lombardi reported the number of pilgrims as between 1 million and 1.5 million. De la Cierva added, however, that WYD success isn’t measured in the number of participants. He also clarified that the number registered is around 430,000, with another 30,000 volunteers and hundreds of bishops.
But, the organization director offered, “the experience from previous WYDs shows that typically the true number of participants is three times greater than the number registered.”
“This is for you”
Father Lombardi also mentioned the “family atmosphere” of the Pope’s meeting this morning with Spain’s royal family, particularly with the children: the son and daughter of Infanta Elena (ages 13 and 10), and the two daughters of the Prince of Asturias (ages 5 and 4). The little princesses gave the Holy Father drawings they had made themselves.
Regarding the meeting with the Spanish prime minister this afternoon, Father Lombardi said there was not an agenda for the event, as it was to be a courtesy meeting, “regardless of if they discuss informally” certain themes of mutual interest or current events.