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The crowd and silence

Between modernity and tradition the extraordinary event of World Youth Day in Madrid proves that prayer and silence can coexist in the presence of hundreds of thousands of young people, probably more than a million, who came from all over the world. This has been seen on previous occasions and confirmation of it comes from Spain's capital, where the festive joy of young men and women mingled with the silence of the Way of the Cross and the enthusiasm triggered by the announcement that John of Avila — whom Paul VI had already presented as a model priest for the contemporary world – would be declared a Doctor of the Church.

In the streets of Madrid mobile phones captured the images of the pasos, the carved wooden baroque tableaux representing the Passion, a refined and at the same time popular expression of the religious feeling rooted in a people that remains Catholic. And the suffering of the world was taken on by the pilgrims in Madrid, voiced by the meditative Latin chants of Taizé — where the idea for these Days may have been born — and by a stirring lament in the Andalusian tradition. On the day the Cross was venerated, it was carried in procession by young people from countries where the name of Christ entails suffering and often persecution.

Those who criticize the mass gatherings chosen by the Church as one of the forms of her presence in the world today should therefore reflect on this World Youth Day, contested with shameful intolerance and without reason by marginal minorities who have obtained too much coverage in the news. Instead, because of its relevance, it is an event that is imposing itself as an important phenomenon in the international media. Its importance is primarily religious, as anyone attentive to simple reality will recognize.

With an overflowing crowd of young people who aroused the sympathy of the inhabitants of Spain's capital, the festivity and silence of these days just goes to show that the Day in Madrid was a moment on the journey of Christians. It is not a process that leads to the abyss, death and nothingness, but rather an itinerary, as the Pope told the seminarians, for those who, step by step, are approaching the Promised Land: which is not a place, but a person — Jesus, who revealed the face of God.

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