WYD:BXVI generation waiting for their Pope
Pope Benedict XVI arrives in Madrid, Spain, Thursday on his 20th Apostolic voyage outside Italy. It is his third trip to the country and it marks the culmination of World Youth Day events currently underway in the Spanish capital. He is due to touch down in Barajas International airport at midday, where he will be officially welcomed by the head of State King Juan Carlos. Later Thursday evening he will be welcomed again to the city, but this time by the estimated one million young people waiting eagerly for his arrival. Emer McCarthy is there and sends us this report:
Wednesday evening, the flags of the nation’s of the world were processed to the raised stage of Madrid’s central Cibeles square, to the notes of the official WYD hymn “firm in the faith”. 193 flags to be exact, held by 193 young Catholics. Rush hour traffic was stopped as they marched by, curious Madrid residents perched on their balconies to watch the spectacle. Nothing was out of place, not a footstep out of time, the procession of the flags was picture perfect.
This despite the gruelling schedule that these 193 young people are following – rising at dawn for Mass, criss-crossing this sprawling city on packed and airless metros, even on foot, under a merciless sun- to reach far flung centres for catechesis, workshops, vocational fairs or centres for reconciliation and confession. They never wavered as they positioned the flags on the stage, the final act in over 3 years of preparation. The final act of preparation before the arrival on Thursday evening of Pope Benedict XVI to this very square.
Some of them, like young Arun from Kerala in India, have been waiting their whole life to hear the Pope speak, others like Michael from the diocese of Northampton in the UK, have come to World Youth Day because they want to hear him again, after his first encounter with the Pope in Glasgow almost one year ago. But speaking to these young people one thing is clear it isn’t the spectacle that has drawn them, seeing the Pope in person is almost an added bonus, they have come to listen to him. They need to hear his message. They have no doubt that he is the Vicar of Christ. And now I finally understand what Cardinal Rouco Varela of Madrid meant when he called them the BXVI generation.
220 catechesis sessions in 27 languages across the city over three days, with the two biggest centres, the Madrid Arena and Palazio de Deportes capable of hosting over 10 thousand pilgrims each. Morning and afternoon sessions for English language pilgrims see’s rotating speakers such as Cardinal Pell of Sydney, Cardinal George of Chicago, Archbishop Dolan of New York, Archbishop Nichols of Westminster, Archbishop Caput newly appointed to Philadelphia. This is no mere ‘festival’ of the faith, rather an examination of it.
Just an example, 15 thousand packed into the ‘Love and Life’ centre in Palazio de Deportes, on Wednesday, with hundreds more queuing outside. The centre is hosted by, the charismatic Sisters of Life and the Knights of Columbus, and is open to young people from across the English speaking world. Before celebrating mass Wednesday morning, Cardinal Pell, gave the main catechesis focusing on the debate of science versus nature, faith versus reason. 15 thousand young people in an arena listening carefully to every word. I had to see it to believe it. This is the BXVI generation and they are waiting for their Pope.