.- Five hundred young people are traveling over 7,000 miles in seven days just to see Pope Benedict XVI in Madrid next week – and they all say it’s worth it.
“It’s important to be there because there are not many Catholics in Taiwan and so we thought it would be good for our young people to gain a broader vision of the whole Catholic Church,” group leader Angela Ng told CNA.
The group of pilgrims hails from the island of Taiwan--the only part of China that didn’t fall under communist rule following the Chinese civil war of 1946-50. It has a population of 23 million, of which only two percent are Catholic.
CNA met up with a group of 30 young Taiwanese pilgrims in St. Peter’s Basilica, where they had just attended Mass. Italy, however, is just the latest stop for the group on a journey that has taken them from Taiwan to Hong Kong to Germany to Rome and finally to Madrid.
“I feel really excited but obviously very tired too,” said Christina Chen, one of the young pilgrims.
“I’m going to Madrid because I’m looking for the truth and I’m looking for myself, and I think I’ll find that at World Youth Day.”
The 500 pilgrims from Taiwan will be joined next week in Madrid by hundreds of thousands of their fellow young Catholics.
“More than a million people will attend the events, something which has never happened in Spain,” said World Youth Day’s Director of Planning, Javier Sobrino, giving the latest estimate of figures to the media in Madrid on Aug. 10.
“It’s up to each and every one of us to carry out this task-- we want all the pilgrims to feel at home.”
The six days of events will culminate in Sunday Mass, presided over by Pope Benedict XVI, at Madrid’s Cuatro Vientos Airport.
Angela, a Verbum Dei missionary, says her only regret is that her fellow Catholics in the communist-ruled “Peoples Republic of China” will not be among the crowds in Madrid.
“Of course, we wish they could also participate but due to the political situation they can’t be at World Youth Day. But we will pray for them. We always pray for them because we are one big family.”