Over two million participants possible for 2011 World Youth Day

Auxiliary Bishop of Madrid Cesar Franco
Auxiliary Bishop of Madrid Cesar Franco

.- Preparations are being made with the possibility that more than two million young people might be in Madrid for World Youth Day next August. The week-long event will be divided between time for prayer and festivities.

During a press conference to present World Youth Day (WYD) 2011 at the Holy See's Press Office on Tuesday, Auxiliary Bishop of Madrid Cesar Franco Martinez provided statistics compiled by organizers to prepare for logistical matters during the celebration.

While it is still too early to tell how many people will be in attendance for the event, which will take place from Aug. 15-21, 2011, Bishop Franco said in his written remarks that "WYD 2011 promises to be one of the most numerous among those held in Europe." By way of comparison, the 2005 celebration of WYD in Cologne, Germany brought in 1.7 million people, while WYD 2000 in Rome saw 2.1 million attendees.

The average numbers for delegations from countries that have provided preliminary figures to WYD 2011 organizers, Bishop Franco wrote, are now 15 percent more than at these previous encounters.

According to the auxiliary bishop's numbers, 170,000 people have already signed up since registration opened in July and they are expecting a total of 600,000 to do so before it closes. Based on past experience for the gatherings, only 25 - 30 percent of participants ever register, the bishop explained, noting that the numbers are therefore still uncertain.

The number, however, does not determine the success of the event, he wrote, "but both are important factors to help the young people obtain spiritual benefits from WYD 2011."

The main objective of the event was defined by the bishop as "the relauching of pastoral activity with young people." Surveys show that only 10 percent of Catholics under 25 years old in the Spanish capital are now practicing.

During the press conference, Bishop Franco, vice director of communications for WYD 2011 Maria de Jaureguizar and Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela of Madrid described a mass mobilization of workers organizing a program filled with prayerful events and as well as more "Spanish," culturally-based events. Organizers hoped that these events would provide a festive environment for young people. They stressed that there would also be a certain "sobriety" to celebrations, considering the difficult current economic situation of the nation.

Commenting on the ongoing and important contribution of online efforts to promote WYD, which are being supported by 70 "community managers" in 18 languages, Mrs. Jaureguizar said that because of the constant traffic across social networks, "you might say that the WYD never sleeps."


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