.- The Holy Father met on Friday with the Cardinal Archbishop of Madrid Antonio Maria Rouco Varela and sponsors working for the success of World Youth Day 2011. The Pope explained the importance of next August's encounter of youth during the audience after which WYD 2011's executive director briefed journalists on the planning process.
Many of the 55 people present for the audience with the Pope on Friday were from the "Madrid Vivo" Foundation, founded by the cardinal and local businessmen last year to "seek solutions to the moral roots of the economic crisis" and to make the city more aware of values.
Yago de la Cierva, executive director and spokesman for WYD 2011, explained to journalists in the Holy See's Press Office that the major aim of the foundation at the moment is collaboration with the organizers of the next World Youth Day, to be held in the Spanish capital.
During Friday's audience with them in the Vatican's Apostolic Palace, Pope Benedict XVI invited the members of "Madrid Vivo" to continue their generous collaboration for this "beautiful initiative," saying that it's not just a simple meeting of the masses, "but a privileged occasion so that the young people of your country and of the entire world may let themselves be 'conquered' by the love of Christ Jesus..."
He noted that there are many young people looking forward to the encounter to be held from Aug. 16-21 of next year, where they will meet to "listen together to the Word of Christ, ever young, and be able to share the faith that unites them and the desire that they have to build a better world, inspired in the values of the Gospel."
Mr. de la Cierva said that after the audience the Pope signed a registration form as the first pilgrim for WYD 2011.
He also mentioned that plans are moving forward smoothly for the encounter for which Cardinal Rouco Varela expects more than two million participants, including more than 600,000 youth will come from outside of Spain.
Among the broad cross-section of details he provided regarding the complexities of the considerations that go into planning for the "Day" and the variety of charitable contributions they have received, the executive director explained that planners are making extensive use of social networks to get feedback from youth and give them a greater say in decisions regarding the initiative.
To reach out to youth, the organizing committee has 70 volunteers working online in 17 different languages. Mr. de la Cierva said proudly that their Facebook page just welcomed their 111,111th "friend," a "significant" milestone for WYD 2011.