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Closing WYD Madrid, Pope sends out 2 million 'apostles of the 21st century'

Catholic World News - August 22, 2011

Pope Benedict XVI challenged nearly 2 million young people to be “apostles of the 21st century,” as he closed World Youth Day (WYD) ceremonies in Madrid on August 21.

“There is no reason to lose heart,” the Pope told WYD participants. He assured them that their contemporaries will respond to the Gospel message, as idealistic young people invariably respond “when one proposes to them, in sincerity and truth, an encounter with Jesus Christ.” In the final remarks of his 4-day visit to Spain, the Pontiff said that the WYD participants would return to their own homes as “missionaries of the Gospel.”

Organizers of the 26th international WYD celebration had expected up to 1 million participants. But nearly twice that many young people crowded onto the airfield outside Madrid where the Pope presided at a concluding Mass on Sunday.

As he prepared to board his plane for the return flight to Rome, Pope Benedict thanked all those who had helped to organize the event. He praised the host country, Spain, for its hospitality as well as its long tradition of Catholic faith.

That Spanish hospitality had been blemished by angry public protests against the Pope’s visit, which occasionally erupted into violence. The anti-papal demonstrators complained that the costs of the papal visit were excessive, particularly at a time of economic difficulties in Spain. Church official replied that the costs of the WYD ceremonies were covered by the income from participants and corporate sponsors. For the government of Spain, the major expenses were for security: expenses that were sharply increased because of the unruly demonstrations.

One of the most dramatic moments of the 26th WYD came on Saturday evening, August 20, when a violent thunderstorm drenched the young people who had gathered for a prayer vigil at the Madrid airport, and forced the Pope to cut short a talk on the dignity of marriage and the family. Despite the pouring rain and wild winds, which knocked out the public-address system, the Pope refused to leave the site, insisting that he would stay to lead the young crowed in Eucharistic adoration. After the storm passed, he congratulated the young pilgrims for their perserverance.

Earlier in the day, at a Mass for seminarians in Madrid, the Pope announced that he was giving St. John of Avila the title, “doctor of the Church,” making him the 34th person accorded that honor. The surprise announcement drew spontaneous cheers from the 6,000 seminarians, who had come to WYD from dioceses all around the world.

As WYD celebration wound down in Madrid, Pope Benedict announced that the 27th World Youth Day will be held in Rio de Janeiro in 2013. That announcement was not a surprise; officials in Brazil, in a minor breach of protocol, had begun openly discussing plans for the WYD event before the Pope’s official announcement.

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  • Posted by: koinonia - Aug. 22, 2011 10:08 PM ET USA

    The numbers are impressive, but what of the efficacy? Vocations are still ridiculously low and mathematically incompatible with viability in nations like France and Ireland. Germany lost many Catholics this past year. The stark emotionalism exhibited at WYD is something entirely different from deep-rooted conviction. Try modesty in dress for starters. So many saints emphasized this essential virtue yet it is lacking among so many of the WYD young people. But the nuns doing "the wave" was cool.

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