New Zealand’s World Youth Day: Madrid and elsewhere

Two year 13 students from Auckland met Pope Benedict XVI at the World Youth Day Papal Welcome Ceremony in Madrid. The ceremony began  at 5.30am New Zealand time (18 August at 7.30pm Madrid time).

Dominic Light and Vincent Phua, both 18, were chosen to join 48 other young people from around the world to meet with Pope Benedict XVI at Plaza de la Independencia before accompanying the Pope through Madrid’s Puerta de Alcalá where the Holy Father is being officially received and welcomed to the city. After this, he is riding in the Popemobile to Plaza de Cibeles

Domonic and Vincent are both members of St Francis and All Souls Catholic Parish in Devonport and are travelling with the Glenrowan World Youth Day Pilgrimage Group. The group left Auckland on Friday 5 August and spent four days in Rome before heading to Barcelona, Lourdes and Avila on the way to Madrid.

Around  200 Zealand Catholics gathered in Madrid’s Parque del Buen Retiro on Thursday for a ‘Kiwi’ gathering, which included Mass. The event began at 3.00pm Wednesday 17 August (1.00am Thursday 18 August New Zealand time).

The gathering was part of the World Youth Day 2011 celebrations taking place in Madrid from 16-21 August. Although described as a ‘day’, World Youth Day is in fact a week-long event. It is the world’s largest youth event and is this year expected to attract two million pilgrims from around the world.

Six Christchurch pilgrims have been allocated front row seats for the vigil with Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday 20 August. Three are from Villa Maria College, which is sending a pilgrimage group of 24. Of the 200 New Zealand pilgrims in Madrid, 70 are from Christchurch making it the largest New Zealand pilgrimage group. This is despite pilgrims having had their efforts to attend the event disrupted by the February earthquake.

The gathering was been organised by the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference Office for Young People and will include New Zealand songs and prayers. The Office’s National Project Co-ordinator, Sr Helen O’Sullivan RNDM, said the gathering will be a highlight for New Zealand pilgrims.

“Around 200 pilgrims have travelled from New Zealand to Madrid, but there are also New Zealanders living in other parts of the world who have come to World Youth Day. The New Zealand gathering is an opportunity to celebrate being together in Madrid for such a special event and to do this in a uniquely Kiwi way”.

Key World Youth Day events include the Papal Welcome Ceremony (Thursday 18 August); the Stations of the Cross (Friday 19 August); outdoor Vigil with the Pope (Saturday 20 August) and the Final Mass (Sunday 21 August).

There will also be events held in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch to coincide with World Youth Day. These will be attended by diocesan bishops and reflect the World Youth Day experience.

In Auckland, activities will include Stations of the Cross (Friday 19 August); an all-night vigil (Saturday 20 August) and a pilgrim walk followed by a youth Mass (Sunday 21 August). In Wellington there will be music, drama and a showcase concert (Saturday 20 August).

Christchurch is holding a World Youth Day Rally for students in Years 9-13 (Friday 19 August) and a young adults programme involving a rosary pilgrimage, dinner and dancing with the Beatitudes community (Saturday 20 August). There will also be a Mass for youth and young adults followed by live footage of the World Youth Day Mass in Madrid (Sunday 21 August).

This is the 26th World Youth Day and continues a tradition started by Pope John Paul II in 1985, which has become the biggest celebration of young people on earth.

While World Youth Day is a Catholic event, the Pope invites any young person who wishes to join the experience, which consists of catechesis (teaching), fellowship, worship and renewal.

In a letter inviting the young New Zealanders to World Youth Day 2011, Pope Benedict XVI said that he often thinks back on the last World Youth Day, held in Sydney in 2008.

“There we had an experience of a great festival of faith in which the Spirit of God was actively at work,” he wrote. “Now we are looking forward to the next World Youth Day… I encourage you to take part in this event, which is so important for the Church in Europe and for the universal Church…Your presence renews, rejuvenates and gives new energy to the Church. That is why World Youth Days are a grace, not only for you, but for the entire People of God”.


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