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Dear brothers and sisters,
Today I would like to return briefly in mind and heart to the extraordinary days spent in Madrid for the XXVI World Youth Day. It was, as you know, a moving ecclesial event: approximately 2 million youth from every continent gathered for a truly exceptional experience of fraternity, of encounter with the Lord, of sharing and of growth in the faith: a true cascade of light. I thank God for this precious gift, which gives hope for the future of the Church: young people with the unwavering and sincere desire to root their lives in Christ, to remain firm in the faith, and to walk together with the Church.
A thanks to all those who worked so generously for this Day: the cardinal archbishop of Madrid, his auxiliaries, the other bishops of Spain and of other parts of the world, the Pontifical Council for the Laity, priests, men and women religious and lay faithful. I renew my gratitude to the Spanish authorities, to the institutions and associations, to the volunteers and to all those who offered the support of their prayer. Nor can I forget the warm welcome I received from their majesties the king and queen of Spain, as well as from the entire country.
Naturally I cannot describe in only a few words the intense moments we experienced. I have in mind the uncontainable enthusiasm with which the young people welcomed me the first day at Plaza de Cibeles, their words so rich in expectations; their strong desire to turn to the most profound truth and to root themselves in it -- that truth that God has given us to know in Christ.
In the imposing Monastery of El Escorial -- so rich in history, spirituality and culture -- I met with young women religious and young university professors. I reminded the former -- the young women religious -- of the beauty of their vocation lived with fidelity, and the importance of their apostolic service and their prophetic witness. And within me there remains the impression of their enthusiasm, of a youthful faith, full of courage for the future and of a willingness to serve mankind. I reminded professors to be true educators of the new generations by guiding them in the search for truth -- not only by their words but also by their lives -- aware that the Truth is Christ Himself. In encountering Christ, we encounter the truth.
That evening, in the celebration of the Way of the Cross, a variegated multitude of young people relived with great intensity the scenes of the passion and death of Christ: the cross of Christ gives much more than it demands -- it gives all, because it leads us to God.
The following day, the Holy Mass [was celebrated] in the Cathedral of Almudena, Madrid, with seminarians: young men who want to root themselves in Christ in order to make Him present one day as His ministers. I hope that vocations to the priesthood increase! Among those present, there was more than one who had heard the call of the Lord at a former World Youth Day. I am certain that -- also in Madrid -- the Lord knocked at the door of the hearts of many young men, [calling them] to follow Him generously in priestly ministry or in religious life.
The visit to a center for disabled youth allowed me to see the great respect and love that is fostered toward each person, and it provided me the occasion to thank the thousands of volunteers who silently witness to the Gospel of charity and of life.
The evening Prayer Vigil and the great concluding Eucharistic Celebration the day after were two very intense moments: In the evening a great multitude of young people full of joy – and not at all intimidated by the rain and wind -- remained in silent adoration of Christ present in the Eucharist, to praise Him, to thank Him, to ask of Him help and light; and then on Sunday, the young people showed their exuberance and joy in celebrating the Lord in Word and Eucharist, in order that they might enter ever more deeply into Him and strengthen their faith and Christian life.
In a climate of enthusiasm, lastly I met with volunteers, whom I thanked for their generosity, and with the farewell ceremony I left the country carrying these days in my heart as a great gift.
Dear friends, the meeting in Madrid was, first and foremost, a marvelous demonstration of faith -- for Spain and for the world. For the multitude of young people who had come from every corner of the world, it was a special occasion to reflect, discuss, exchange positive experiences and, above all, to pray together and to renew their commitment to root their own lives in Christ, the Faithful Friend. I am sure that they have returned home, and that they return there with the firm purpose of being a leaven in society by carrying the hope that is born of faith. For my part, I continue to accompany them in prayer, so that they might remain faithful to the commitments they have assumed. I entrust the fruits of this Day to the maternal intercession of Mary.
And now, I desire to announce the themes of the next World Youth Days. Next year's, which will take place in the individual dioceses, will have as its motto: "Rejoice in the Lord always!" taken from the Letter to the Philippians (4:4); while the motto for the 2013 World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro will be Jesus' mandate: "Go and make disciples of all nations!" (cf. Matthew 28:19). With this, I entrust to everyone's prayer the preparations for these very important meetings. Thank you.
[Translation by Diane Montagna]
[The Holy Father then greeted pilgrims in several languages. In English, he said:]
I warmly greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors here today. Having just returned from Madrid, I greet affectionately the young people present, especially those who were with me for the unforgettable celebration of World Youth Day. I also welcome those present from Australia, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore and the United States. May God bless all of you and remain with you forever!
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[In Italian, he said:]
And lastly, I warmly greet all the Italian-speaking pilgrims, as well as newlyweds. I invite everyone to devote even more time to Christian formation, in order to be faithful disciples of Christ, the way, the truth and the life.
And now let us sing together the Pater Noster in Latin.
Thank you, and a good day to all.
[At the conclusion of the Audience in the courtyard, the Holy Father looked out onto the square in front of the Palace and spoke these words:]
I wish you a good day, joy, blessed summer holidays and a good return to work. May the Lord be with you always so that you might feel His presence and the light that comes from faith. To everyone, my best wishes! May the Lord bless you always! I now impart to you all my Apostolic Blessing.
[Translation by Diane Montagna]