· Closing celebrations of WYD at the weekend ·
From the Manzanares to the white beaches of Copacabana; from old Europe, whose Christian roots are threatened by secularization, to the new continent, in the Country with the greatest number of Catholics in the world: Benedict XVI has made an appointment with young people for 2013 in Brazil. He announced this before the Angelus on Sunday, 20 August, at the end of the Holy Mass which concluded the Madrid edition of the international gathering of new generations: the place chosen is Rio de Janeiro, one year ahead of the traditional 3 year wait, in consideration of the fact that the vast Latin-American country will host the 2014 World Cup.
The joy of the youth in green and gold on the Papal platform at the Cuatro Vientos Airport, who accepted the great cross and icon, symbols of WYD, from the hands of fellow Spanish youth singing “ unidos vinceremos ”, was the epilogue of the great “celebration of faith” lived out in Madrid over the weekend.
In the airport, whose extension is equivalent to 48 sports fields, an endless crowd of young people – estimated at well over 1.5 million – gathered despite Sunday morning’s sweltering heat and the storm that drenched them the night before. From the enormous Papal platform the view was an impressive one: a vast expanse of happy boys and girls, who in waiting had alternated meditations and reflections during the liturgy of the Mass and of the Vigil, forming one heart and one soul, in a silence more eloquent than words.
At eight kilometres from the capital, the air base, which had also hosted John Paul II’s meeting with Spanish youth in 2003, opened its doors at noon on Saturday for those who began to flow in. And while Madrid was being emptied, the great expanse of Cuatro Vientos was full of cheer, of songs about the witness of Christian life and of prayer by those really are – and have always been proclaimed in the slogans of the 26th World Youth Day – “the Pope’s youth”: a peaceful and colourful army, armed with flags alone, hats on theirs heads and mochillas on their shoulders, an army who sings and improvises choreography and dance groups, in addition to the traditional slogans of praise chanted to the Pope in various languages.
All the while, it is they, “Benedict XVI’s youth” who are the protagonists of that evening’s meeting centred around the Eucharist, despite the beating rain and the strong gusts that “explained” to those who didn’t know why the place is called “the four winds”. So after the fiery furnace of the afternoon came the downpour of the evening. It didn’t spare the Princes of Asturias – who welcomed the Pope on his arrival - or even the Pope himself, barely protected by an umbrella. However, the young people were there to lead by example and Benedict XVI did not disappoint. “If they stay so will I”: the microphone captured the calm and determined voice, as he whispered to collaborators who were asking him what to do during that prolonged ten minute pause before the Homily. “I thank you for your joy and your resistence. Your strength is greater than the rain,” he joked, causing an eruption of excitement in the crowd. “With rain the Lord has sent us many blessings,” he added before resuming the reading of greetings in the different languages.
St. Peter’s Square
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