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Youth describe 'stronger' faith and excitement following Pope's address
World Youth Day pilgrims in Cibeles square
World Youth Day pilgrims in Cibeles square
By Lorna Cruz
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.- The immense crowd of young people in Plaza de Cibeles was filled with excitement after Pope Benedict XVI’s address to the youth in Madrid, Spain on Aug. 18.

“It brought tears to my eyes,” beamed Hannah Davidson, an 18 year old from Kansas. “(My faith) is definitely stronger and I am going to promote it a lot more.”

Language was no barrier for Pope Benedict’s message to be heard and understood by non-Spanish speakers. Pilgrims were able to listen to the Pope’s message in their native languages through various radio stations with live translations.

In his message, the Pope urged the youth to build “your lives upon the firm foundation which is Christ.” He added, “(t)hen you will be blessed and happy and your happiness will influence others.”

“They will wonder what the secret of your life is and they will discover that the rock which underpins the entire building and upon which rests your whole existence is the very person of Christ, your friend, brother and Lord, the Son of God incarnate, who gives meaning to all the universe.”

Several young people spoke with CNA after the address, including Chris Desousa, a 27 year old from Australia. He said that so far, his favorite part of the experience was “building up to World Youth Day and actually seeing (the Pope) here. Now he is going to spend the next few days with us!”

“It was beautiful to hear him speak and address all the youth,” he said, with an Australian flag tied around his neck.

For 19-year-old Michael McCormick from Massachusetts, it was powerful to see “people from all over the world who practice the same faith.”

He explained that at home, “it can seem like you are the only one, but (to) see all of these people alive for God is really fantastic,” especially “after a long couple of days in the sun and sitting here for a few hours.”

Even those who were not able to see the Pope directly on stage had meaningful experiences, thanks to the many screens and speakers set up throughout the streets around Plaza de Cibeles. 

“His presence here in Spain (is) so exciting,” Kris Gomez, a 16 year old from the Philippines, said. Even though she did not get to see him drive by, “him being here was just… wooh!” she exclaimed, jumping with joy.

The area surrounding Plaza de Cibeles was filled with excited conversations, impromptu dances and cheers following the Pope's appearance.

Volunteers and city workers who picked up trash and directed traffic were encouraged by groups of pilgrims who cheered them on and expressed their thanks, with an authentic sense of fellowship that exemplified the event's energy.

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