Thursday, August 25, 2011

Lucia Wow. The crowds of young people in Madrid to see the Pope just have to be seen to be believed

Damien Thompson, of Holy Smoke says:

The crowd-pulling power of Benedict XVI is almost miraculous, given the contrast with his openly charismatic predecessor, and his former image as a conservative “enforcer”. Who could have predicted that at World Youth Day in Spain – which was not even his first visit to that country as Pope – he would attract a crowd of a million young people?

Related link: Benedict XVI in Spain: a triumph for this 'meek man of mighty action' (despite the best efforts of the BBC)

1 comment(s):

Seán said...

It was a shame I could not make this Mass. So close yet so far.

For the week that was WYD 2011 (or in Spanish JMJ 2011) as a Mr Joe Public observer and resident of Madrid all I can say was that it was an experience not seen often.

I am not sure of the exact numbers, reports range from 1.0 - 1.2 - 2.0 million young pilgrims in Madrid, Whatever the number what was clear was that the youngsters were numerous, passionate and welcome. I won't focus on the tinpot protesters this time but rather what was actually happening in the city.

The city was completely and utterly overwhelmed by the pilgrims and the local govt preparations appeared to be up to the task. The economic benefits to Madrid speak for themselves, especially at a time when the city is very quiet (August, most are on holiday elsewhere).

But of more interest was the atmosphere. As I said the city was overwhelmed and basically there were groups of youths everywhere, from less than 10 to greater than 20, along with their parish chaperones. Most groups came with flags to indicate their country, some also with regional flags and also that of the Vatican. It was a pure celebration of faith and nothing was going to stop that.

As a casual habitant of the city it quickly became aware to me of the impact. The buses were completely full as was the underground metro. At one point one underground station was so full that someone had paused the pilgrims for some reason (several hundred) and I was going against the grain. Careful logistics was needed. The thing I found was that when they were on the local transport, they were singing and admittedly it was rather inspiring. Whether it be South Americans, Germans, Italians or Spanish, there was life everywhere, in every crevice if the inner city.

The last time there was anything “like” this atmosphere, was when Spain was progressing to the soccer World Cup final last year. Well this time, let’s just say, everyone (mostly foreigners) was well behaved, and this time alcohol wasn’t a factor. There was a certain euphoria that could not be explained by simple means, this time it was something real, something special. It was something for the naysayers to find difficult to fathom., it was beyond them.

During the week many public and private institutions supported the young pilgrims with discounts and cheap accommodation. One prominent high-rise building on Paseo de Castellana even lit up their floors in the shape of a cross. Flags and banners were posted in all main locations.

Despite the oft negative coverage in the media, this was mainly related to a tiny percentage. From the ground I can state it was a great week for the locals, an even greater week for the pilgrims, and a very frustrating week for the “haters and wreckers”. I was amazed by what the visitors brought to the city, and for those who had the fortune to witness it, I am sure it will live in the memory for a long time tom come.

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