The world needs the witness of your faith!
Fr Pawel Rozpiatkowski
The several days in Madrid must be called a joyful feast of faith that poured hope into the pessimists' hearts and snatched the argument of 'the fall of Christianity' out of the hands of the reluctant. On 16-21 August 2011, Spain's capital became the capital of Christianity that thanks to its youthfulness showed strength and vitality that it still has. Naturally, it is hard to turn a blind eye on the process of laicisation and secularisation penetrating the European countries, which partly result from the ideologies that are hostile towards Christianity and that dominate public news. The heralds of these ideologies are often celebrities. People, especially young people, accept easy, empty slogans but Madrid showed again that not all young people follow these slogans and that numerous people all over the world are faithful to Christ.
The manifestation of faith in Madrid was a thorn in the atheists and leftists' flesh who tried to spoil the festivity, including the use of aggression. We are not going to continue this theme so as not to follow the scenario they invented. We have said enough. They tried to disturb the young people praying in Madrid but they did not succeed.
World Youth Day vs. economy
During the celebrations of the World Youth Day in Madrid the world followed the economic perturbations. The headlines of the main papers focused on stock exchanges, ratings, currency, stagnation, in a word - crisis. And in Madrid people spoke about God, man and morality. Two different worlds? It is in this that the drama and first cause of current economic problems are and the problems cannot be solved without implementing ethics to economy. 'The economy does not function with a self-regulation of the market alone, but it needs an ethical reason if it is to function for man,' explained Benedict XVI, answering the journalist's question on his way to Spain aboard the Alitalia plane. 'Man must be the centre of the economy and the economy cannot be measured according to the maxim of profit,' Benedict XVI diagnosed, speaking about the causes of the first wave of crisis in 2008. Unfortunately, his appeal was not heard and people sought the solutions which Christ called pouring new wine into old wineskins, which - as it is known - leads to the deterioration of wine and wineskins.
The world in troubles
The situation of the world is hard and the problems are not only economic at all. At the beginning of his pilgrimage, during the welcome ceremony at the Barajas Airport on 18 August, Benedict XVI spoke about that. 'Of course, there is no lack of difficulties. There are tensions and ongoing conflicts all over the world, even to the shedding of blood. Justice and the unique value of the human person are easily surrendered to selfish, material and ideological interests. Nature and the environment, created by God with so much love, are not respected. Moreover, many young people look worriedly to the future, as they search for work, or because they have lost their job or because the one they have is precarious or uncertain. There are others who need help either to avoid drugs or to recover from their use. There are even some who, because of their faith in Christ, suffer discrimination which leads to contempt and persecution, open or hidden, which they endure in various regions and countries.' Thus Benedict XVI described the world, the rich one and the poor one, and the problems of each one.
An impressive number of young people arrived in Madrid. The main Mass, which ended the WYD and was celebrated by the Pope, gathered two million participants. They had the chance to realise these problems and repulse the troubles by their vivid faith, which originated from their personal encounters with Christ. 'The discovery of the living God inspires young people and opens their eyes to the challenges of the world in which they live, with its possibilities and limitations,' the Pope spoke about the intentions of young people in the Welcome Ceremony.
A few stages led to the culmination of the WYD, the Eucharist on 21 August. Benedict XVI spent four days with young people. He met young women religious. He told them about the evangelical radicalism which was especially important today when 'when we see a certain 'eclipse of God' taking place, a kind of amnesia which, albeit not an outright rejection of Christianity, is nonetheless a denial of the treasure of our faith, a denial that could lead to the loss of our deepest identity.'
On the second day of his visit Benedict XVI met a group that was very special for him - university professors. He told them about the true role of university, i.e., that of forming young people seeking the truth as opposed to certain trends, the utilitarian approach to education aiming at educating only competent specialists. 'We know that when mere utility and pure pragmatism become the principal criteria, much is lost and the results can be tragic: from the abuses associated with a science which acknowledges no limits beyond itself, to the political totalitarianism which easily arises when one eliminates any higher reference than the mere calculus of power,' the Pope warned them.
The Holy Father spoke to the seminarians, gathered in the Cathedral of Santa María la Real de la Almudena in Madrid on 20 August, about following Christ and courage to proclaim him in the laicised world and at the same time he stressed the necessity to discern their vocations, 'Approach the priesthood only if you are firmly convinced that God is calling you to be his ministers, and if you are completely determined to exercise it in obedience to the Church's precepts.' At the end of the Eucharist the Pope announced the he would shortly declare Saint John of Avila a Doctor of the universal Church.
During his meeting with disabled youth in the Foundation of St Joseph the Pope comforted them, saying 'No suffering can efface this divine image imprinted in the depths of our humanity.'
The Pope's third visit to Madrid was of official character and there were meetings with the royal couple and the unpopular Spanish Prime Minister. But the Pope's meetings with politicians were only at the margin of his pilgrimage.
Together with young people
Naturally, young people were in focus of the Pope. Benedict XVI was with them almost all the time. In the sun and heavy rain. He dined with the representatives of the WYD. On 19 August he prayed with them during the Way of the Cross, the stations being located in the main squares of Madrid and showing the sufferings of the whole world. Benedict XVI also heard confessions and prayed at the vigil at Cuatro Vientos military airport in Madrid during which young people told him about their concerns and expressed their hopes. This meeting was disturbed by heavy rain and gusty wind, which, however, was regarded as God's blessing because of the 40 degree heat in Madrid in those days. Because of the storm the Pope could not deliver his speech. He only began the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, exposed in the huge monstrance brought for this occasion from Toledo.
Young witnesses of faith
As the organisers estimated about one and a half million participated in the vigil whereas in the final Eucharist of the XXVI World Youth Day there were two million believers coming from all over the world. The organisers had to make two provisional sectors. 800 cardinals, archbishops and bishops and almost 15,000 priests from the whole world co-celebrated the Eucharist with the Holy Father. The papal homily concentrated on the Gospel, the dialogue between Jesus and his disciples. The key question of Jesus was 'Who do people say that the Son of Man is?' (the whole text of the homily is on page 6). The Holy Father challenged young people to love the Church since when we were alone on the way of faith we could not encounter Christ. 'The world needs the witness of your faith, it surely needs God,' Benedict XVI said.
After the recitation of the Angelus Domini the Pope announced that the next World Youth Day would take place in Rio de Janeiro in 2013.
Benedict XVI directed special worlds in Polish to the Polish young people, 'Dear young Poles, strong in the faith, rooted in Christ! May the gifts you have received from God during these days bear in you abundant fruit. Be his witnesses. Take to others the message of the Gospel. With your prayers and example of life, help Europe to rediscover its Christian roots.'