Nineteen years ago I went to Santiago de Compostela, where the fourth World Youth Day was taking place. The reason for that journey concerned neither the Church nor the faith. I was a young man who, like others, was eager to listen to John Paul II. From that meeting, my life changed, and after two years of discernment, I decided to become a priest. The account, for SIR, was by Father Javier Porro, delegate for the youth pastoral of the archdiocese of Santiago de Compostela, after hearing the announcement of the Pope in Sydney. I give the WYD a great value - he added - because I realized how many people found out their vocation to religious or marriage life in that experience. Father Porro concluded: I believe these days are extraordinary events which become part of the ordinary pastoral, helping it to better respond to the expectations of the young. The Pope‘s invitation to support educators also confirms the great attention paid by the Church to new generations.
The World Youth Day 2011 will be celebrated in Madrid - as announced by Benedict XVI after the final Mass in Sydney - from 15th to 21st August. It was made known by the Youth Pastoral Office of the Spanish Bishops Conference a short time ago. Probably - it is written in the note by the Office, - the Pope will be starting his apostolic journey to Spain one week earlier, on 8th August.
After an evening in the light of cheerfulness, sharing, songs and prayers, the Belgian youth gathering in Banneux in these days, for celebrating the World Youth Day, met last night around a screen at the chapel of the sanctuary, to take part in the final Mass of the WYD broadcast live from Sydney by the TV. And that was not all. Thanks to the magic technology and a GSM apparatus - said the youth through the WYD blog of the Church of Belgium -, we were able to take part in the Mass live, thanks to the connection with our fellow-countrymen who were in that hippodrome to pray with some more 300,000 young people!. For many of us - added the youth from Banneux -, this was a time in which we felt in communion with all the youth present in Sydney, and with the Holy Father, too.
About 6,000 young people from England, Austria, Burundi, Burkina Faso, Spain, United Sates, Italy, Ireland, Low Countries, Lithuania, Palestine, Romania, Sweden and France are present at the Lourdes sanctuary in these days, for celebrating the World Youth Day 2008. On Saturday evening, they gathered for a prayer wake, like in Sydney. Resurrected Christ - said the archbishop of Bordeaux, Card. Jean-Pierre Ricard - can only be witnessed by the Christians, His disciples and witnesses. The wake was a great time for communion with the World Youth Day in Sydney, because the young people in Lourdes prayed together with the youth gathering in Sydney together with the Pope, during the wake broadcast through recorded transmission. At the end of the meeting, Cardinal Ricard publicly announced that the community accepted the sacrament of the confirmation for twelve of the young present. They will receive the sacrament during the Holy Mass, which is going to be celebrated at the sanctuary today.
(From our correspondents in Sydney) - The decision of Benedict XVI to choose Madrid for the next World Youth Day is providential for our Church, which needs to «open the windows» and breathe fresh air. It was declared to SIR by Msgr. José Ignacio Munilla, bishop of Palencia and in charge of the youth pastoral within the Spanish Bishops Conference. The bishop recalls how necessary it is to start from the Sydney event and from the words of Benedict XVI to prepare the next world youth meeting. It is not possible to think about Madrid - he stated - without studying with great care all the great messages which the Pope sent us in these days. Among the priorities in the path for the preparation of this appointment, Msgr. Munilla recalled the need to establish coordination of the pastorals: the parish one, the religious college one, and the movement one. In particular, movements have remarkable bodies of support in Spain, to such extent that, according to the Bishop, they will make up a very important part of the young wholl take part in the event. Next November, announced Msgr. Munilla, there is going to be a national youth pastoral forum, in which over five thousand young people will take part, coming from all parts of Spain: it will definitely be the opportunity to coordinate the different entities operating on ecclesial level, and to delve into the programming of the next WYD.
If you look back, you can acknowledge the abundant harvest that the Spirit has aroused through your prayers, your perseverance and your hard work. How many good seeds you have sown in these few days!. During his meeting with the benefactors and organizers of the 23rd WYD, the Pope expressed his gratitude to all those who have contributed to the success of the event. He thanked them for the sacrifices they had made in planning and realizing this wonderful day for the life of the Church in Australia, and even more so for the trust you have shown in our youth and your confidence in the grace of God that is at work in their hearts. May the investment of hope that many of you have made in them - Benedict XVI exclaimed - bear fruit in their lives, for the good of the life of the Church of Christ and for the future of our world!. During this WYD, thanks to the work of the organizing committee and of so many people, the young people who came here from all over the world - said the Pope - have had the opportunity to experience the beauty of this country and the warm hospitality of the Australian people. For their part, they have enriched this land with the witness they have given to the love of Christ and the power of his Spirit operating in the Church.
(From our correspondents in Sydney) - Spain is a meeting point for both Europe and Latin America. Therefore, setting up the World Youth Day in Madrid was a really positive choice. It was declared to SIR by Concha Padilla, one of the young Spanish in Sydney on the occasion of the WYD. I am sure - she added - that an event like this is good for the Spanish society, which has really been changing recently. Lots of young people dont believe in anything any more, and perhaps the World Youth Day will be useful to touch their consciences. IsabelBorges is happy about the choice of Madrid, because Spain is a land which loves the Pope, and on this occasion, the people will be able to show him all their affection. According to José María Palàez, the Madrid WYD will be important to approach many Spanish people which are distant from faith today. In this 2008, the Spanish Church is busy with the youth mission, thanks to which - added Palàez - the various components of the youth pastoral worked together. Now, this experience is very useful with a view to the preparation and setting up of the World Youth Day.
(From our correspondents in Sydney) - We are expecting over one million young people in Madrid. It was forecast by the archbishop of the Spanish archdiocese, Card. Rouco Varela, today, while he was talking to the press, as soon as the Pope formally announced that the new World Youth Day would take place in the Spanish capital in 2011. The announcement was made at the Angelus taking place in Randwick, at the end of the Mass closing the World Youth Day in Sydney. We are very happy and we feel it is our responsibility to set up this event - added the Cardinal - which we think it will take place during in the third week of August. The Cardinal pointed out that he was not worried, because he had already had the experience of setting up the World Youth Day in Santiago de Compostela, in 1989. The Cardinal said he hoped for the support of the whole Church: the Spanish, the European and the World Church. From the government of my country, I expect collaboration - added Cardinal Rouco Varela; - as for the costs of this event, we shall rely on the providence.
(From our correspondents in Sydney) - A tsunami of faith: thats how the Most. Rev. Anthony Fisher, auxiliary bishop of Sydney and WYD coordinator, defined the final mass of WYD. The bishop was speaking at a press conference today. According to Fisher, over 400,000 pilgrims were present at the event, not counting those who followed the liturgy on the large screens set up in neighbouring Centennial Park. This city - the bishop continued - has thrown its homes, its hearts and its arms open to the Pope, to the youth of the whole world and to the leaders of the Church, demonstrating that the Australians are a people far more spiritual than they seem. This is also clear from the enthusiasm that the city expressed over the last few days. Looking to the future, the bishop said that the effect of WYD has already begun. He also recalled the 130,000 Australians who will return home full of enthusiasm for having been able to share this experience. This - he said - is undoubtedly a new life and a new energy for our Church and I am sure that thanks to WYD our youth pastoral mission will be better than it was before. The bishop announced in this regard that in November a conference of bishops would be held in Australia to discuss the guidelines to be adopted for this sector in future.
(From our correspondents in Sydney) - The ability to share with others, once they have returned home, the consciousness that in the Church today there are so many people who experience the faith in their lives and express it with deep spirituality, through the careful listening to the Word and the teaching of the Church, is very encouraging, especially for all those who live in situations where it is not easy to bear Christian witness, said Father Federico Lombardi, spokesman of the Vatican Press Room, summing up the results of WYD today in a briefing to SIR at the end of the final mass celebrated by Benedict XVI at Randwick racecourse. WYD in Sydney, according to the Vatican spokesman, represents a spiritual recharge, like the experience of Jesus on the mount, but it needs to be translated into daily actions. Commenting on yesterday evenings Vigil, and the moving silence that fell at the moment of eucharistic adoration, Fr. Lombardi said that it confirmed the ability of the young to concentrate on prayer and to understand very well the significance of silence and adoration. The young understand what is being proposed to them, what the Pope is saying to them, and they are perfectly able to respond. The fact that it is happening to so huge a mass of people - he concluded - is wonderful and significant.
The web has confirmed the planetary success of World Youth Day in Sidney. Apart from the official site in four languages www.wyd2008.org, among the most visited in the world at the present time, a considerable service was provided by www.h2onews.org, a website in nine languages (including Chinese) that transmits images of the Vatican Television Centre in its coverage of the Popes visit to Australia, as well as reports from major international wire services and from the various special correspondents sent to cover the event. www.wydcrossmedia.org, the result of cooperation between some Catholic media (including SIR) has made an equally important contribution, with many links to other sites. Many websites of Italian dioceses have dedicated windows to live coverage of WYD events. WYD in Sidney has also confirmed what a formidable means of evangelization is represented by Youtube, with over 3000 active pages: the images sent in by youngsters throughout the world have achieved excellent results in terms of connection. The channels on Youtube of Italian dioceses (including Milan, Bologna, Pavia, Jesi and Sulmona), of the Popeboys, and of the Salesian Youth Movement have also proved very effective. But individuals have also enriched the web, with hundreds of dedicated sites and channels that have covered various aspects of WYD: catechesis, festivities, testimonies, and transmitted in real time emotions and summaries for all the young people who were unable to travel to Australia. Just to cite one: www.teleweb3000.com, Australian website for Italians in the world.
(From our correspondents in Sydney) - A Sydney that flourishes again: thats how Cardinal George Pell sums up the WYD that ends today in the Australian city. In an editorial for the Sunday Telegraph today Pell writes that the inhabitants of Sydney, Catholics and non-Catholics, have taken the pilgrims to heart and offered them hospitality and assistance. The weather too, confounding the gloomy forecasts, which had predicted rain throughout the week, was perfect. The cardinal also praised the work of the local police who did an excellent job using tact and common sense, despite the special laws adopted for major events such as WYD and the Olympics. The memories that will remain indelibly fixed in the cardinals mind include the welcoming ceremony for the Pope at Barangaroo, the Stations of the Cross, the Vigil and the final mass and, in particular, the joy of so many young people. They are unforgettable days
We publish SIRs eighth daily comment on the 23rd WYD
Are you building your lives on solid foundations, are you building something that will endure?. And: What legacy will you leave to the youth who will come after you? What difference will you make?. The Popes questions were posed as a provocation to the young people who participated in the final mass of the 23rd WYD in Sydney. It was almost as if he asked them: What will you do with this experience once youve returned home? Will you consign it to your album of memories or will you turn it into a contagious witness of love and faith? The Pope, as always, goes straight to the essence, with the concern and trust of a father who is placing the future in the hands of his children. He knows very well the challenges of a world that wishes to forget God, or even to reject him in the name of a false concept of freedom. That would spell the end of humanity. And so the Pope asks of the new generations to conceive and build a new era in which love is not possessive and egoistic, but pure, faithful and sincerely free, open to others, and respectful of their dignity: a love that promotes their good and that irradiates joy and beauty. To this enterprise the Holy Father calls the young in the first place: he knows their smiles but he also knows their capacity for thought, for projecting, for action. He equally knows the difficulties and obstacles. Thats why he confronts each young person with the great unknown whose face the WYD revealed: the Holy Spirit.
(From our correspondents in Sydney) - Irrepressible enthusiasm and great joy: these are the first feelings of the Spanish pilgrims in Sydney, on hearing the news that the next World Youth Day will be held in Madrid in 2011. Its a dream that has become a reality, declared Mgr. Gregorio Roldán, delegate for youth pastoral work of the Archdiocese of Madrid in an off-the-cuff comment to SIR. Roldan is sure of the commitment of his country and his Church to the event, because the commitment of so many generous youth is typical of Spain. One thing is sure: the number of participants in Madrid is bound to be high: Spain is close to the rest of Europe, Africa, and its easy to arrive there also from Asia and America, says Ruben Herrero, 29 years old, together in Sydney with a group of young Spanish pilgrims. Hes enthusiastic about the prospect. It will be a WYD characterized by multiculturalism and richness of charisms, comments the 25-year-old Luis Peolanco, from Madrid. Almudena Lopez, 26 years old, is also convinced of the universality of the event and the massive participation that will undoubtedly be present in Madrid.
(From our correspondents in Sydney) - The announcement that the next World Youth Day will be held in Madrid in 2011, given by the Pope after the recitation of the Angelus at Randwick, is good news not only for Spain, but also for Europe and for the whole Church. Thats the first comment given to SIR by Mgr. Juan Antonio Reig Pla, Bishop of Cartagena. Our problems, as country and as continent, are much the same as those denounced by the Pope in Australia: galloping secularism and the questions posed by religious freedom. But undoubtedly Spain has, at the present time, specific problems of its own, linked to the radical nature of our government, which is placing in question the sacredness of life, marriage, the family and the Christian roots of our country. Mgr. Pla emphasises, however, that we await the Holy Father with confidence, and what he has to say will be very important for us. We also hope to receive from him useful guidelines for taking forward our commitment to the evangelization of youth and of families, who have the task of forming and educating these youngsters.
(From our correspondents in Sydney) - The time has come to say goodbye, or rather until we meet again!, said the Pope to the young people after the recitation of the Marian prayer of the Angelus in Randwick racecourse at Sydney. I wish to thank you all for having participated in World Youth Day 2008, here in Sydney, and hope to see you again in three years time. World Youth Day 2011 will be held in Madrid, in Spain - the Pope announced -. Until then, let us pray for each other, and give joyful witness to Christ before the world. God bless you all!.
The Pope highlighted that the Church especially needs the gifts of young people, all young people. She needs to grow in the power of the Spirit who even now gives joy to your youth and inspires you to serve the Lord with gladness. Hence the plea: Open your hearts to that power!. What does it mean to receive the seal of the Holy Spirit?. Benedict XVI explained that it means being indelibly marked, inalterably changed, a new creation. For those who have received this gift, nothing can ever be the same! Being baptized in the one Spirit means being set on fire with the love of God. This, however, entails one further step: Being given to drink of the Spirit means being refreshed by the beauty of the Lords plan for us and for the world, and becoming in turn a source of spiritual refreshment for others. Being sealed with the spirit - the Holy Father concluded - means not being afraid to stand up for Christ, letting the truth of the Gospel permeate the way we see, think and act, as we work for the triumph of the civilization of love.
Dear young friends - Pope Benedict XVI continued - the Lord is asking you to be prophets of this new age, messengers of his love, drawing people to the Father and building a future of hope for all humanity. It is clear that the world needs this renewal! In so many of our societies, side by side with material prosperity, a spiritual desert is spreading: an interior emptiness, an unnamed fear, a quiet sense of despair. How many of our contemporaries have built broken and empty cisterns, - reflected the Pope - in a desperate search for meaning - the ultimate meaning that only love can give?. The Pope clarified that this is the great and liberating gift which the Gospel brings: it reveals our dignity as men and women created in the image and likeness of God. It reveals humanitys sublime calling, which is to find fulfilment in love. It discloses the truth about man and the truth about life. Furthermore, the Holy Father underscored that the Church too needs this renewal! She needs your faith, your idealism and your generosity, so that She can always be young in the Spirit. (to be continued)
What will you leave to the next generation? Are you building your lives on firm foundations, building something that will endure? Are you living your lives in a way that opens up a space for the Spirit in the midst of a world that wants to forget God, or even rejects Him in the name of a falsely-conceived freedom? How are you using the gifts you have been given, the power which the Holy Spirit is even now prepared to release within you? What legacy will you leave to young people yet to come? What difference will you make?. Benedict XVI asked. And he went on to say that The power of the Holy Spirit does not only enlighten and console us. It also points us to the future. Empowered by the Spirit, and drawing upon faiths rich vision, a new generation of Christians is being called to help build a world in which Gods gift of life is welcomed, respected and cherished - not rejected, feared as a threat and destroyed. A new age in which love is not greedy or self-seeking, but pure, faithful and genuinely free, open to others, respectful of their dignity, seeking their good, radiating joy and beauty. A new age in which hope liberates us from the shallowness, apathy and self-absorption which deaden our souls and poison our relationships is needed. (to be continued)
"The power of the Spirit never ceases to fill the Church with life", the Pope pointed out "Through the grace of the Churchs sacraments, that power also flows deep within us, like an underground river which nourishes our spirit and draws us ever nearer to the source of our true life, which is Christ. Yet - he clarified - this power, the grace of the Spirit, is not something we can merit or achieve, but only receive as pure gift". At the same time, "Gods love can only unleash its power when it is allowed to change us from within. We have to let it break through the hard crust of our indifference, our spiritual weariness, our blind conformity to the spirit of this age. Only then can we let it ignite our imagination and shape our deepest desires". Hence the call for regular private and liturgical "prayer", in order to be receptive to the power from on high, enabling us to be salt and light for our world". A special thanksgiving to the Lord for the "gift of faith" followed. Such a gift has reached us as a "treasure passed on from generation to generation in the communion of the Church". (to be continued).
The mission of the Pope visiting Australia as a pilgrim has been to confirm youth in faith and open their hearts to the power of the Spirit of Christ and to the richness of His gifts so as to send them as a new generation of apostles to bring to world to Christ!, in the Popes own words at the final Mass of the XXIII World Youth Day at Sydneys Randwick Hippodrome. The Holy Father called everyones attention to the fact that here in Australia, this great south land of the Holy Spirit, all of us have had an unforgettable experience of the Spirits presence and power in the beauty of nature. Our eyes have been opened to see the world around us as it truly is: charged, as the poet says, with the grandeur of God, filled with the glory of His creative love. Here too, he added, in this great assembly of young Christians from all over the world, we have had a vivid experience of the Spirits presence and power in the life of the Church. We have seen the Church for what She truly is: the Body of Christ, a living community of love, embracing people of every race, nation and tongue, of every time and place, in the unity born of our faith in the Risen Lord. (to be continued)
(From our correspondents in Sydney) - The slogans against the Pope did not get the better of the chorus of pilgrims. Some 300 demonstrators of the NoToPope coalition yesterday demonstrated against Benedict XVI and the positions of the Church on abortion, homosexuality and contraception. According to todays Sunday Telegraph, while the demonstrators shouted such slogans as the Pope is wrong - use condoms, the pilgrims passed close by on their way to Randwick, and responded with the waving of flags, boos, applause, songs and slogans in praise of Benedict XVI. The whole confrontation took place without particular problems and, according to the paper, the pilgrims dont seem to have been disturbed by the protest. However, one pilgrim was detained by the police for having sought conflict with a demonstrator. Some 5000 persons had been expected at the demonstration, but only 300 showed up.
(From our correspondents in Sydney) - For the final mass of WYD at Randwick (Sydney) this morning the organizing committee estimates a participation of over 500,000 persons, following the 235,000 present at yesterday evenings Vigil. But while we await the official figures, some definite figures for this last act of the 23rd World Youth Day can be given. On the altar podium at Randwick there will be 420 bishops, 26 cardinals, a choir of 300 voices, and an orchestra of 80 musicians, while 3000 priests will be seated in the parterre. The Communion will be distributed not only by priests but also by 1000 acolytes and extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist. The rite will be concelebrated with Benedict XVI by Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, the Most Rev. Philip Wilson, President of the Australian Bishops, and Cardinal Sfeir, Patriarch of the Maronites (Lebanon).