Why Youth Day '11 Will be Key for Spain

Pilgrim Hopes Event Will Combat Secularism

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By Catherine Smibert

SYDNEY, Australia, JULY 20, 2008 (Zenit.org).- At Benedict XVI's announcement that the next World Youth Day will be hosted by the Archdiocese of Madrid, red and yellow flags went flying up across the field in Sydney's Southern Cross Precinct.

Nineteen-year-old Paola Callas and 20-year-old Miriam Ramírez said they couldn't emphasize enough the importance of this event for their country.

"It's so necessary that Madrid may be able to experience a living Church as we have done here in Sydney over this week," said Callas.

"People don't associate the Church with relevance, joy or even fun over in Spain," added Ramírez. "We have a lot of political upheavals and secularism taking over the contemporary climate so it would be relevant for youth to experience the truths of the Church in a package like that of World Youth Day."

The Church in Spain was host to the successful 4th World Youth Day almost 20 years ago in Santiago de Compostela. In a press conference held after the announcement, Spanish youth said the fruits of that 1989 event were faithful parents and vocations. But, they added, that was at least one generation ago. Many of the pilgrims in Sydney this week were not even born yet.

"Since then," said Isabel Borges, "lots of young people don't believe in anything any more, and perhaps the World Youth Day will be useful to touch their consciences."

A journalist of the Spanish episcopal conference, Ivan de Vargas, said that Youth Day in Madrid would run from Aug. 15-21, 2011, but they are already expecting the Pope to arrive a week earlier.

He added that, notwithstanding tough issues in Spanish culture, "Spain is a land which loves the Pope, and on this occasion, the people will be able to show him all their affection."