Benedict XVI’s first thought, on his flight to Madrid for World Youth Day taking place there, was about his Predecessor, whose idea it was originally, but the most evocative image of the occasion came from the Pope's lips as he answered the journalists. The Pontiff described the Madrid encounter — and the 25 previous ones — as a “cascade of light”, a sign which makes God visible in the world.
This, and no other, was the reason why John Paul II decided to institute World Youth Day. John Paul II is now Blessed and invoked among the Patrons — the invisible and closest friends — of the young people gathered in Spain's capital. It is not a show of strength, nor a mass rally as spectacular as it is fleeting but an opportunity for friendship beyond borders, a place to meet and make room for God, a time to sow seeds which, as in the Gospel parables will ripen in the inner silence of souls.
A rare coincidence connects the participation of Benedict XVI with that of his Predecessor at these meetings: they both took part in a World Youth Day on their third visit to Spain. It was King Juan Carlos, in the presence of the principal representatives of the government and of the opposition who recalled this in his cordial greeting to the Pope. Equally cordial was the Pope’s Address, in which he especially wished to thank the great country for its endeavour in offering hospitality to the hundreds of thousands of young people arriving from all over the world.
There are nearly 200 countries from every continent represented in Madrid. The young people began welcoming the Pope on his journey from the airport to the city centre holding balloons, waving flags, and tossing clouds of multi-colored confetti up into the air. A simple and joyous prelude to the great celebration which is reaching its climax, but which had been planned well in advance and will continue to show its fruits for some time to come. Yes, it is a very visible and lively event, but one which is really only revealed through the eyes of faith, because this is its deepest reason.
The Pope said that it is the young people themselves who must explain why this colourful multitude has come to Spain's capital from all over the world. Yet he immediately added that it may be their desire to hear the Word of God. The Word which continually speaks to every person, perhaps only in a whisper, but always encouraging them to look at the challenges in the world, its problems and difficulties, which continually multiply. As evidenced by the dramatic events in recent months that in many countries are spreading anxiety among young people.
The most recent news confirms the constant teaching of the Church on social realities: man must be at the centre of the economy. According to Benedict XVI, the ethical dimension remains fundamental, in our responsibility for the common good and for the future of the planet. The large number of volunteers active in the world demonstrates that this is possible and that the future of everyone is already being built today: on the way towards God.
St. Peter’s Square
Jan. 23, 2019
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