Benedict XVI Urges Young People to "Love the Church"

1.5 Million Attend Madrid Youth Day

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By Inma Álvarez

MADRID, Spain, AUG. 21, 2011 ( You cannot live your faith alone, Benedict XVI told the young people gathered at the Cuatro Veintos Air Base in his homily during the closing Mass of the 26th World Youth Day.

The Pope arrived at Cuarto Vientos at 9:15 a.m. in the popemobile and, traveling along the base’s main road, circulated among the young people, which he was unable to do Saturday evening for the vigil, due to security concerns.

Benedict XVI greeted the 1.5 million young people — according to figures confirmed by the Spanish National Police — who had slept all night on the ground. His first remark was: «I thought a lot about you; I hope you were able to get a little sleep.»

Accompanied by the Spanish royalty, the Pope made his way to the altar to preside at the eucharistic celebration in which the sending of the young people out to evangelize their peers in the world was also celebrated.

The Pontiff, as he had also done in his address in the opening ceremony of World Youth Day in Plaza de Cibeles, warned the young pilgrims against the danger of individualism, one the of the most significant threats that the new generations of Christians face.

«Following Jesus in faith is to walk with him in the communion of the Church. You cannot follow Jesus alone,» he explained.

The Pope then cautioned them against the temptation of «going it alone» and «of living the faith according to the individualistic mentality that predominates in society» because in this way there is «the risk of never meeting Jesus Christ, or of ending up following a false image of him.»

«Having faith means leaning on the faith of your brothers, and that your own faith in the same way serves as a support for that of the others,» he added.

In light of this the Bishop of Rome called on the young people to «love the Church,» concretely inserting themselves in «parishes, communities and movements,» and «to participate in the Eucharist every Sunday, to approach the sacrament of Reconciliation frequently and to cultivate prayer and meditate on the Word of God.»

«From this friendship with Jesus there will also arise the drive that will lead to bearing witness to the faith in the most different environments, including those where there is rejection and indifference,» he said. «It is not possible to meeting Christ and not introduce him to others.»

The world, the Pope stressed, «needs the witness of your faith, it certainly needs God,» exhorting the young people to be «disciples and missionaries of Christ in other lands and countries where there is a multitude of youth who aspire to great things and, glimpsing in their hearts the possibility of the most authentic values, do not let themselves be seduced be the false promises of a lifestyle without God.»

At the end of the celebration, Cardinal Stanisław Ryłko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, thanked the Pope on behalf of the young people.

«Here before you, Your Holiness, there is a young Church, full of the joy and enthusiasm of faith. They are young people who are proud to belong to Christ and to his Church. … It is truly a generation that seeks God,» he said.

In particular he thanked the Pope for the creation of the Youcat, the youth catechism that was included in each pilgrim’s backpack, and the World Youth Day cross, which the Pontiff blessed at the conclusion of the Mass and symbolically entrusted to five young people.

Communion was not distributed

The event organizers said that the estimated 200,000 young people who could not enter the area where the Mass was celebrated were able to follow the Mass outside without having to go to the Vicente Calderón Stadium as had been the initial plan.

During the course of the night «adequate conditions were created» to permit the pilgrims to follow the celebration.

One of the problems that was not able to be resolved was the collapse of the 17 tents prepared for adoration and the distribution of Holy Communion for today’s Mass.

Another 10 tents were cordoned off by the police because of the threatening high winds.

This situation led the organizers to suspend the distribution of Communion to those who were not near the altar. The announcement was made in the early morning hours.

The World Youth Day coordinator, Yago de la Cierva, explained the matter afterward in a press conference, observing that it was the «most painful incident» for the event’s organizers.

De la Cierva said that the problem had been caused by the sudden strong winds that had not been predicted by any meteorological service.

«The police decided, with quite reasonable judgment, that it was better to empty the tents and cordon off the rest of the rest of the structures, making them unusable to avoid the effect of the wind, which could be very dangerous for everyone’s safety,» he added.

Masses had been planned in these structures for 6 a.m. and the consecrated hosts were to be distributed during the papal Mass.

With entrance to the tents blocked, it was not possible to retrieve liturgical vestments and the hosts for consecration and so the organizers were forced to suspend the wider distribution of Holy Communion.

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