.- After a powerful portrayal of the Way of the Cross, Pope Benedict XVI told World Youth Day pilgrims that they must imitate and share the love that inspired Christ's sacrificial death for all mankind.
He told the crowd who witnessed the Aug. 19 procession at Madrid's Plaza de Cibeles that the cross “teaches us to love what God loves, and in the way that he loves,” which can extend “even to the supreme sacrifice of one’s life.”
“Christ’s passion urges us to take upon our own shoulders the sufferings of the world,” he said. “What can we do for him? What response shall we give him?”
He told his young listeners that God “expects you to give your very best,” developing the “capacity for love and compassion” in response to the love that God showed by laying down his life as a man.
Those who live in misfortune, he noted, are especially in need of the compassion acquired from Christ.
“May Christ’s love for us increase your joy and encourage you to go in search of those less fortunate,” Pope Benedict told the multitude of believers in the plaza.
The Way of the Cross, patterned after Spain's Holy Week tradition, spanned almost half a mile and featured traditional Spanish sacred art dating back as far as the 16th century. Youth from different countries, including Iraq, the Holy Land, Albania and Sudan, carried the cross to the stations representing stages of Jesus' last agony and death.
At each station, a specific group of young people took up the cross. They included residents of countries where believers undergo persecution, as well as the disabled and those who tend to AIDS sufferers.
“Two of my friends helped carry the cross,” said Antonio, a 10-year-old Spanish boy who was drawn into the sacred drama by his friends' participation.
Maria, 16, said she hoped her contemporaries would leave the plaza strengthened and encouraged. And she noted that the young people, in turn, “had an important role in supporting and encouraging the Pope.”
At tomorrow's vigil, the Pope will offer young people an even closer encounter with Christ through Eucharistic adoration.