By David Kerr
Pope Benedict XVI is eager to meet the vast crowds of young people who are gathering in Madrid and is looking forward to the “wonderfully spiritual” moments that will occur during the four-day international event.
“The Pope is very happy and very much looking forward to meeting a million young people next week,” said papal spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J., in Aug. 12 remarks to CNA.
“It will obviously be a very demanding trip for him because it is a four-day visit. But he knows from his previous World Youth Days in Cologne and Sydney that these are great occasions with great enthusiasm and he wants to give young people a witness to faith and encouragement to live lives of hope and charity.”
Fr. Lombardi gave his final briefing in Rome this morning ahead of World Youth Day’s launch next Tuesday, August 16.
Pope Benedict will arrive on the evening of Thursday, August 18. He will then preside at a total of nine events with young people over the next four days, culminating in Sunday morning Mass at the city’s Cuatro Vientos airport.
Fr. Lombardi revealed today that over 800 bishops plan to attend that Mass.
“Obviously the Eucharist on Sunday is the most important moment of the four days for the Pope, but he’s also looking forward to other very significant moments that will be wonderfully spiritual occasions,” said Fr. Lombardi.
He highlighted the Pope’s leading of the Way of the Cross through the streets of Madrid on the Friday – prayed with “the intensity of the Spanish spiritual tradition” – as one such moment.
The spokesman also said the Pope is looking forward to meeting with several young people and giving them the sacrament of Reconciliation at the city’s Jardines del Buen Retiro the next day.
“Also Mass with the seminarians on Saturday will be a wonderful reminder of the spirituality of the priesthood on, this, the 60th anniversary of the Pope’s ordination,” noted Fr. Lombardi. For Pope Benedict celebrating “the Mass of Jesus Christ, eternal high priest, will be great.”
Fr. Lombardi also explained that Pope John Paul II will be a significant figure at World Youth Day. The recently beatified pontiff was declared one of the patrons of the event earlier this year. He confirmed that the event’s inaugural Mass on Tuesday evening will be the “Mass of Blessed Pope John Paul II.”
It was also confirmed today that the Pope will make time next week to visit the King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia of Spain, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and opposition leader Mariano Rajoy.