Pilgrims are now pouring out of Madrid's Cibeles Square, which packed in an estimated 500,000 pilgrims for the Opening Mass of World Youth Day. The Archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela, presided over the liturgy. Pilgrims were also welcomed by Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, who heads the Pontifical Council for the Laity, the Vatican body responsible for World Youth Days. His address can be found below.
Dear young people,
The day we have all been waiting for has arrived: the inauguration of the 26th World Youth Day. After a long path of preparation you are finally here in Madrid, a beautiful modern city that will be the world capital of Catholic youth for the next few days...
“Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Ps. 118: 26). With the words of the psalmist I extend a cordial welcome and affectionate greeting on behalf of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, the department of the Holy See entrusted by the Pope with the organization of world meetings of young people. I also greet your bishops, priests, religious and lay leaders who have come here with you and have guided you on your journey of spiritual preparation for this great adventure of faith that we shall experience together for the next few days.
You have come to this meeting with the Holy Father Benedict XVI bringing with you all your plans and hopes, as well as your concerns and apprehensions about the choices that lie ahead. These will be days that you will never forget, days of important discoveries and decisions that will be decisive for your future.
Our reflection and prayer over the next few days will be guided by the words of Saint Paul that you know so well: “Planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith” (cf Col 2:7). This is very demanding because it contains a definite life plan for each one of us. Faith will be at the centre of our reflection at this time. Faith is a decisive factor in each person’s life. Everything changes according to whether God exists or not. Faith is like a root that is nourished by the lifeblood of the word of God and the sacraments. It is the foundation, the rock on which life is built, the dependable compass that guides our choices and gives clear direction to our lives.
Many of us might wonder: in our world today where God is often rejected and people live as if God did not exist, is it still possible to have faith?
Dear young people! You are gathered here in Madrid after having come from the most remote corners of the planet. You have come to say aloud to the whole world – and in particular to Europe which is showing signs of being very lost – your unwavering “yes”! Yes, faith is possible. It is in fact a wonderful adventure that allows us to discover the magnitude and beauty of our lives. This is because God, revealed in the face of Christ, does not put human beings down. God exalts us beyond all measure and beyond our wildest imaginings! For the next few days, together with the apostles, we all want to shout aloud to the Lord: “Increase our faith!” (Lk 17:5). Like Saint Anselmo, we too want to pray: Lord, “Teach me to seek you, and reveal yourself to me as I seek, because I can neither seek you if you do not teach me how, nor find you unless you reveal yourself" (Proslogion 1:1).
As we await the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI, we have welcomed a special guest this evening to WYD in Madrid. Blessed John Paul II has come back to you, the young people that he loved so much, and who was equally loved by you. He has returned as your blessed patron and as a protector in whom you can trust. He has returned as a friend – a demanding friend, as he liked to call himself. He has come to say to you yet again and with much affection: Do not be afraid! Choose to have Christ in your lives and to possess the precious pearl of the Gospel for which it is worthwhile giving everything!
Dear young people!
The 2011 World Youth Day in Madrid has begun!
Once again I say to you: welcome to you all to Madrid!
Credit: CNS Photo/Paul Haring