.- When Pope Benedict XVI arrives in Spain for World Youth Day in 18 days time he will find a country gripped by economic crisis. Despite that, the papal nuncio to Madrid says Spanish enthusiasm for the papal visit is undiminished.
“Spain is waiting for the Holy Father with great desire and hope that he will also assist a recovery on a spiritual level,” said Archbishop Renzo Fratini to Vatican Radio Aug. 4, adding that in Madrid itself “there is great expectation and the whole city is abuzz.”
Spanish unemployment is currently the highest in the industrialized world with nearly half of all young people unable to find work.
Spain “is going through a crisis of values and believes that the Pope will bring to this country a new wind,” said the nuncio, although he stressed that Pope Benedict’s mission will be primarily spiritual.
This year’s World Youth Day will take place in the Spanish capital Aug. 16-20. The Pope will arrive on the evening of Thursday, Aug. 18. In total, he will preside at nine events with young people over the following four days.
That will include hearing young people’s confessions on the Saturday at Madrid’s Jardines del Buen Retiro park before presiding over Sunday Mass at the city’s Cuatro Vientos Airport. Hundreds of thousands of young pilgrims are expected to attend.
“Many young people feel disillusioned and are in need of new hope and so this day - I believe - represents a new beginning,” said the nuncio. He sees this World Youth Day as a crucial component in Pope Benedict’s vision of a ‘new evangelization’ which will re-convert the traditionally Christian West back to a belief in Jesus Christ.
“The Pope will also make time for confessions - a testimony to indicate that the Christian life really starts from an inner renewal, from a conversion: the return to God.”
The theme for World Youth Day in Madrid is “Rooted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the Faith,” taken from St. Paul’s Letter to the Colossians. Archbishop Fratini believes this to be an apt slogan particularly in a time of economic uncertainty.
“I believe it is a good opportunity to rediscover the foundations of the fundamental choice of Christian life: live it every day in relationship with others and in a dimension of solidarity and openness to the world,” said the archbishop. He hopes the week of events will help lead many young people to discover their vocation in life.
The archbishop concluded by assuring those planning to visit Madrid this month that the organization of the event is in hand with over 20,000 volunteers already in place and ready to assist.