Message of hope and renewal

Hundreds of thousands of young people met Pope Benedict XVI on Thursday evening. in Madrid prepared a welcoming feast. In the Plaza de Cibeles and surrounding streets, World Youth Day participants gathered Thursday evening to celebrate with the 84-year-old and hear his first address.

After being welcomed by Madrid's Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, the head of the Catholic Church addressed the young people in seven languages. He expressed his joy at the number of participants. According to church data, 440.000 permanent guests registered for the meeting.

Young people from five continents presented the pope with symbolic gifts from their homelands. So he received bread and salt, rice and coffee. A Latin American participant presented him with a sombrero, a Japanese Catholic placed a floral wreath around his neck.

Warning against inconstancy and egoism
In his homily, Pope Benedict XVI warned. from inconstancy and selfishness. Many considered themselves gods and thought they needed no foundations other than themselves, the pope said at a welcome party Thursday night. Such people would like to decide for themselves what truth and justice are and who is worth living for and who, on the other hand, can be "sacrificed on the altar of other perspectives". Temptations to always leave oneself to chance, to live without a set course and to let oneself be guided by the impulse of the moment, were always lurking in ambush.

Benedict XVI put a stop to this "life without horizons". a freedom with God towards. People are not just "blind executors", but responsible for their actions, because they are created free in the image of God. Thus, he said, they are "protagonists in the search for truth and for the good". If young people build their lives on the "solid foundation" of Jesus Christ, wisdom and prudence will guide their steps. Firm in faith, their lives would also show their peers a valuable alternative. The pope said that young people would also infect others with their joy. They would also reach out to those whose foundations of existence were not sustainable because they followed the fashionable trend of immediate benefits.

By following Christ, young people cannot lose themselves in paths that leave emptiness and disappointment, the pope said. He warned against "blind and selfish" impulses and the "path of tempting proposals," which are, however, self-serving, deceptive and impermanent.

For the evening's event, young people had been gathering since the afternoon in the square where Real Madrid soccer club celebrates its victories. People of all nations sang, danced and waved flags to shorten the waiting time. From nearby houses, residents poured water on those waiting to cool them down. The pope himself had himself protected from the evening sun with a large white umbrella.

Official welcoming ceremony at the airport
With initially bearable temperatures and cloudy skies, Benedict XVI was. landed in the Spanish capital on Thursday at noon. But first there was an official welcoming ceremony, which was attended by King Juan Carlos and the Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero. The 73-year-old monarch, dependent on a cane after knee surgery and weakened for some time by tumor surgery, appeared more frail than his guest, 11 years his senior, as they walked together through the honor formations.

Benedict XVI. Made clear right at his arrival that he was coming for a religious event. At World Youth Day, he said, he wanted to strengthen young Catholics from all over the world in their faith and friendship with Christ, and to give them a sense of community in the Church that spans the globe. He wanted to make it clear to them that without God it is difficult to cope with the problems of everyday life, consumerism, the banalization of sexuality and the lack of solidarity.

At the same time, the Pope also addressed political ies and mentioned the difficulties of young people today, which are currently virulent, not least in Spain. He lamented unemployment, drug abuse, environmental degradation and anti-religious intolerance.

Earlier, speaking to journalists traveling on the plane, the head of the church had called for an ethical shift in economic policy. People, not profit, must be the focus, he said. Concluding in his welcome speech, "WYD brings a message of hope". A "breath of renewal" should inspire confidence for the future of the church and the world, he said.

Pope addresses current situation of Spain
At the very end, Benedict XVI touched on. also the current situation in Spain, which threatened to overshadow the Pope's visit in the past few days. There is currently "cause for concern," but the Spanish will overcome the problems because of their characteristic dynamism and thanks to their centuries-old Christian roots, the pope said.

Indeed, the country is politically unsettled. After continuous protests against the economic course, it faces early new elections. Some of the frustration has also been directed at the church and the pope – especially since figures about the cost of WYD have been circulating in the media and since the last "indignados" (indignant ones) had to vacate their permanent camps for Youth Day.

Anti-WYD demonstration on Thursday night
"No taxpayers' money for the pope" was written on placards at a demonstration Wednesday night in downtown Madrid, where an alliance of nearly 5.000 atheists, church critics and homosexual associations clashed with World Youth Day participants. While here it remained with the verbal exchange, there were with fisticuffs between Pope opponents and the police a dozen injured and several arrests.

It remains open whether the pope's visit itself will be calmer. Individual groups have registered protests. The itinerary will certainly also depend on how the socialist government – in permanent dispute with the local church – acts in the coming days. Also Benedict XVI. Will likely avoid direct attacks against Zapatero.

Toward the end of the welcoming ceremony at the airport, clouds broke over Madrid. Driving under a scorching midday sun, Benedict XVI. In the Popemobile to the Vatican Embassy.

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