Pope Benedict XVI took time on August 21 to thank World Youth Day 2011 volunteers, saying they made pilgrims feel at home in Madrid by serving in the spirit of the Gospel.
“Everyone did (their) best, by work and prayer, to weave, stitch by stitch, the magnificent, colorful tapestry of this World Youth Day,” the Pope told 12,000 volunteers at the INFEMA exhibition center.
After leaving the Apostolic Nunciature amid cheers and applause, the Pope greeted the thousands of volunteers awaiting his words.
The encounter began with the volunteers singing the World Youth Day anthem. On a stage adorned with flowers, 25-year-old Spaniard Javier Reyes spoke for the young volunteers, saying the Pope’s “commitment, evidenced in this trip to Madrid, was an inspiration to the youth.”
Giselle Azevedo, a 22-year old Brazilian, thanked the Pope for choosing Brazil to host the next World Youth Day. She added that her pilgrimage to Cologne for the 2005 event had “confirmed that the Church is where I am supposed to be.”
The Pope addressed the youth with gratitude, pausing occasionally as applause broke out.
“This sacrifice was itself a beautiful and evangelical way to take part in the celebrations: you gave yourselves to others,” Pope Benedict said.
Volunteers often gave up participating directly in the events, in order to make sure everything ran smoothly.
The Pope assured them that God will use the “weariness, the worries and the burdens of these days” to help volunteers grow in “patience, meekness, joy in self-giving, and eagerness to do God’s will.”
“To love means to serve,” he said, “and service increases love.”
As the volunteers return to their everyday lives, the Holy Father asked them to treasure the week's experiences, letting God guide them in lives of service. They should “respond in love” to Christ, “who, for love, gave himself up for us.”
If they do, the Pope promised, their lives “will achieve fulfillment in ways you cannot imagine.”