Overcoming the Challenges of WYD

The website of the World Youth Day was attacked. Protests were planned against Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Madrid Aug. 18-21.

A group of protesters broke into a run when police descended on a square near the historic Puerta del Sol (Gate of the Sun) plaza. Group of protesters were seen with anti-papal signs. Some pilgrims were harassed with chants of obscenities, while others were subjected to verbal confrontation.

Then there is the ultra secularist Spanish prime minister, José Luis Zapatero.

All these were part of many negative news of the World Youth Day that seems to make its way through the media.

On the other side of the coin there were positive reports of this international event. One such report tells of some 11,000 Catholic faithful, both young and old singing and dancing to religious songs in the open parking lot. Another records the presence of Arab Christians, some of whom have found a sense of safety in Roman Catholic youth festivities in Madrid. Many testimonies are flooding into various blogs and facebooks expressing the sentiments of peace, calm and tranquillity in just being in the presence of people of the same faith. One pilgrim was reported to have felt “an opening of the heart and mind in Madrid” that she had never felt before.

Despite the challenges, there was no dampening of the pilgrims’ spirits. Pope Benedict XVI too did not disappoint them. According to Vatican spokesman, Father Federico Lombardi, the Holy Father is “thrilled at this great response by youngsters, which is always new, it fills him with gratitude” and it “strengthens him in his service.”

Father Lombardi in his statement said that the Pope is “thrilled at how the WYD is going, at the wide participation of young people and spoke enthusiastically about yesterday’s lunch with 12 of these youngsters, expressing his appreciation for their spontaneity and liveliness, and the faith shown during the Stations of the Cross.”

John Paul II launched the tradition in Rome in 1985 as a single day event for youths. This has now turned into a week long event filed with activities celebrating the Catholic faith. The gathering in Madrid, which is the 12th World Youth Day since 1985, is estimated to ‘generate crowds in excess of 15 million people, making World Youth Day the Olympic Games of world religion: The largest regularly held international religious event on the planet’, reports Catholic News Services.

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