Madrid is hosting World Youth Day but all of Spain is joining in the celebration. More than 130,000 young people from across the world are in Spain’s 65 dioceses, before the international gathering begins on Aug. 16.
“The Days in the Dioceses are a great way to prepare for WYD,” said program organizer Javier Igea on August 11.
The young pilgrims from 137 countries are being offered free accommodation by each diocese in either schools, parishes, sports centers or homes. Each day the pilgrims meet with young local Catholics for prayer and worship at the shrines and religious sites held dear by each region.
So while French pilgrims in the north-eastern Diocese of Oviede are making a pilgrimage to the shrine of La Virgen de Covadogna, Italian pilgrims in nearby Galicia are visiting the tomb of the Apostle St. James in Santiago de Compostela.
Meanwhile, the city of Avila, famed for its connection to the 16th century St. Teresa of Jesus, hosted a retreat entitled “Teresa of Jesus: Rooted and built up in Christ.” The retreat culminated in a sound and light show on the evening of Aug. 13.
The visiting pilgrims are also being offered historical tours, non-religious cultural activities as well as free time to themselves.
“We participated in WYD at Rome in 2000 and lived the Days in the Dioceses, welcomed by families in the city of Imola,” said Patricia and George, a young married couple from Guadalajara, near Madrid. They are currently hosting three pilgrims from California.
“This WYD in Madrid is an opportunity for us to give back what we received 10 years ago and for the pilgrims who will come to have a chance to live the experience of living with a host family.”
Organizers say they are insistent that cost not be a barrier to participation. That means that 230 Haitian pilgrims are being financially supported in their visit to the historic region of La Mancha, just 40 minutes south of Madrid.
The “Days in the Dioceses” initiative was begun in 1997 at World Youth Day in Paris as a way of allowing all of France to participate in the event. It has since been replicated at each subsequent World Youth Day.