Pope Benedict XVI left Spain on the evening of August 21, after giving a challenge to the million-plus young people who came to World Youth Day in Madrid over the past six days.
“Now I ask you to spread throughout the world the profound and joyful experience of faith which you had here in this noble country,” said the Pope, on the tarmac at Madrid’s Barajas Airport.
“By your closeness and your witness, help your friends to discover that loving Christ means living life to the full.”
Pope Benedict led nine events during his four-day visit for World Youth Day. The peak moment was Sunday's Mass at Cuarto Vientos airbase, with a congregation said to contain up to 2 million people.
Spain’s King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia came to Barajas to bid the Pope farewell on behalf of the Spanish nation.
“Holiness, you have addressed words of love and hope, encouragement and confidence to a youth that treasures values like solidarity,” said King Juan Carlos.
“I give the most heartfelt thanks for your visit to Spain. Thank you for the hope and the vision that you have given to our youth.”
In response, the Pope told them that “Spain is a great nation whose soundly open, pluralistic and respectful society is capable of moving forward without surrendering its profoundly religious and Catholic soul.”
The Pope thanked World Youth Day 2011's organizers, giving special mention to Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity; Madrid's Cardinal Archbishop Antonio Rouco Varela; and the event's General Coordinator, Monsignor Cesar Augusto Franco Martinez.
About two hundred young people got to come onto the tarmac to wave goodbye to the Pope. As with his arrival at the same location, he was “protected” by a line of mini-Swiss Guards, Spanish schoolboys dressed in the uniforms of the illustrious Vatican army.
“I leave Spain very happy and grateful to everyone,” said the Pope.
“But above all I am grateful to God, our Lord, who allowed me to celebrate these days so filled with enthusiasm and grace, so charged with dynamism and hope.”
He said the past week's “feast of faith” should inspire “great confidence” in God's love and care, keeping the Church “young and full of life, even as she confronts challenging situations.”
“This is the work of the Holy Spirit, who makes Jesus Christ present in the hearts of young people in every age and shows them the grandeur of the divine vocation given to every man and woman.”
The Pope said that young people respond when “one proposes to them, in sincerity and truth, an encounter with Jesus Christ, the one redeemer of humanity.”
He concluded by urging the bishops of the world, and teachers of the faith at every level, to build on the lessons that young people have received in Madrid.
“Do not be afraid to present to young people the message of Jesus Christ in all its integrity, and to invite them to celebrate the sacraments by which he gives us a share in his own life.”
The Pope then departed on his chartered Alitalia flight which will return him to Rome this evening.
And so ended World Youth Day 2011. Its effects around the world may have just begun.