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Opening of World Youth Day

· In Plaza de Cibeles ·

“You young people whom we meet here and the many others who could not or did not want to take part in these Days in Madrid, are the generation of Benedict XVI”, Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela, Archbishop of Madrid, said to 200,000 young people on Tuesday evening, 16 August, in Plaza de Cibeles at the opening Mass of the 26th World Youth Day.

While waiting for Mass to begin, the young people alternated moments of dance and song inspired by the logo, theme and anthem of wyd. The celebration of the Eucharist began with a long procession. Several cardinals, 400 bishops and 2,500 priests from the five continents concelebrated. “Young people today”, the Cardinal said in his homily, “find themselves facing new problems and challenges, from globalization to the economic crisis, from new technologies to the revolution in communications”. “Unfortunately”, he added, “their existential roots are weakened by a rampant spiritual and moral relativism”. Consequently, “they have as great or a greater need to encounter the Lord than the previous generations, in the only way that has proven to be spiritually effective: as simple and humble pilgrims in search of his face”.

In the Cardinal’s opinion this generation “needs to see Jesus Christ in the encounter with the Word and in the sacraments, especially the Eucharist and the sacrament of forgiveness”, it needs to see Jesus, “and to enter into a deep dialogue with him, with the One who loves without asking anything in return”.

He concluded: “the Pope, who loves you very much, wants you in these days to experience the Catholic communion of the Church, the truth and the urgent need to make your own the theme of the World Youth Day 2011: “Rooted and Built up in Jesus Christ, Firm in the Faith”.

Beneath the gaze of the Virgin of Almudena, a copy of whose image was set on the altar, Cardinal Rouco Varela blessed the medals with the image of the Patronness of Madrid that were in the pilgrims' backpacks.

At the end of the Mass, Cardinal Stanisław Ryłko, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, addressed them: “after a long process of preparation, you are here in Madrid at last; a beautiful modern city that for the next few days will be the capital of Catholic youth”. “You have brought with you” to the meeting with Benedict XVI, he added, “your plans and your hopes, as well as your anxieties and apprehensions about the decisions that lie ahead”. The Cardinal expressed the hope that they would never forget their days in Madrid “of important discoveries and decisions that will be decisive for your future”.

“Faith will be the focus of our reflection”, Cardinal Ryłko continued. “Faith is a crucial factor in every person’s life. Everything changes according to whether or not God exists. Faith is like a root that nourishes us with the lifeblood of the word of God and the sacraments. It is the foundation, the rock on which life is built, the trustworthy compass that guides our choices and gives our lives a decisive direction”.

Lastly Cardinal Ryłko mentioned Bl. John Paul II, saying: the “inventor” of the wyd, was “present” at the celebration in a reliquary containing a drop of his blood for the veneration of the participants, an everlasting testimony to the creator of the World Youth Days.

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