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Rain and shine at Cuatro Vientos

Perhaps the most vivid memory the two million young people, who came from all over the world to take part in the World Day in Madrid, will retain is a moment during the Prayer Vigil. Such as when Benedict XVI, buffeted by the beating rain and barely protected by a few white umbrellas, told his collaborators that he would stay, like the young men and women drenched and huddled in the boundless space of Cuatro Vientos Air Base; it was as if he were expressing his relationship with his juventud [young people] in a simple and serene gesture of courage which met with resounding applause on the part of “the Pope's young people”, as the throng presented itself in these past few days.

It was no more than a token, if you like, but laden with significance because of a profound truth that refers to the essential: affection for the Pope whose authentic features are becoming ever better known. And this bond, in its turn, expresses the reality of the Church: in Christian brotherhood, which is open to everyone, and in the mystery of the Communion of the Saints, starting with the Patron Saints of the Madrid meeting and including beloved John Paul II, who had the providential inspiration to establish the World Days. Hence the Pope with youth, contra viento y marea – against the tide, one might say, to quote the evocative headline given to the meeting by La Razón , the daily newspaper which gave the most coverage during the events.

Together, come rain come shine, in the blinding light and the implacable heat of the meseta [plateau] once again at Cuatro Vientos, for the Closing Mass concelebrated by the Pope with hundreds of priests and bishops, including dozens of cardinals. A further sign of the most authentic character of the World Youth Days: not only festive and positive mass gatherings, but a new form of the Church's presence and a moment on her journey through time.

After preparation in Spain and in the other countries which involved thousands of parishes and groups, for very many of the young people their return home will be the beginning of a new Christian life.

The religious and spiritual meaning, as clear as crystal in Benedict XVI's words, is therefore the principal and most genuine result of the World Youth Day. The event nevertheless also attracted the attention of the international media, whose comments were favourable on the whole, following an initial wariness.

This is similar to what happened for the Visit to the United Kingdom, preceded by a series of damaging and negative articles which gave way to an almost unanimous consensus — and it is an indisputable merit of many British newspapers to have been able to change their opinion — in highlighting the Pope's transparent humility and his kindly ability to address all, making himself understood and not only to Catholic faithful.

There certainly were disputes and protests, but they were either marginal or so blatantly intolerant and illogical that they could easily be ignored, as Yves Thréard commented in Le Figaro . In short, the days in Madrid were also a success recognized by the media, especially in Spain. Thanks to the protagonists, first of all, namely, Benedict XVI and his juventud then, of course, thanks to the organizers and, last but not least, to Spain: to King Juan Carlos with the Royal Family, to the Spanish Government and to the various authorities. The cooperation between Church and State, the Pope emphasized, does justice to many commonplaces and is to be held up as a worthy model.

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St. Peter’s Square

Sept. 23, 2018

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