Pope and pilgrims drenched but WYD atmosphere not dampened

Pope Benedict braved thunder, lightning, strong winds and torrential rain to preside at the 2011 WYD vigil prayer service.

“Be proud of the gift of faith which you have received, as it will illumine your life at every moment,” the Pope said to 1.5 million young people at Cuatro Vientos air base on the outskirts of Madrid.

“Let yourselves be seized by God, so that your presence in the Church will give her new life!”

Pope Benedict had barely begun his address when a ferocious lightning storm disrupted the vigil prayer service.

While some pilgrims scrambled for shelter others danced in the rain. The Pope, covered by several papal-white umbrellas, continued his address for a little longer, but in the end a drenched, yet remarkably serene 84 year old Pontiff took refuge, forgoing his prepared text.

“Like an Apocalypse here!” Jo Anne Rowney said via Twitter.

The storm was in complete contrast to earlier in the afternoon when firetrucks weaved their way through the crowd, spraying them with water, cooling them from the searing 40C heat.

The elements settled, a change of clothes for the Holy Father and he returned to the stage.

“I hope you were able to sleep despite the inclement weather,” the Pope said.

“We live an adventure together.”

“Like tonight, with Christ you can face the trials of life. Do not forget. Thank you,” Benedict said.

“Benedict XVI was determined, extremely determined to stay, just as the young stayed. He had not the slightest doubt. The storm was a parable of Christian life in which moments of difficulty are overcome by the strength of faith,” Vatican spokesman Fr Federico Lombardi said.

Despite the hardships of the previous day, the initial heat, then the downpour, hundreds of thousands young people spent the night on the open field at the airport base.

They were up, ready and rowdy when the Pope arrived, and he noticed.

“The vision of that sea of happy souls fills my heart with joy,” he said.

In his homily, Benedict said that faith is not about understanding a bunch of facts, rather “it’s an ability to grasp the mystery of Christ’s person in all it’s depth.”

The pope urged Sunday’s crowd not to hold on to their faith but to share it.

“So do not keep Christ to yourselves. Share with others the joy of your faith,” he said.

The storm that interrupted Saturday’s prayer vigil also damaged several large tents where the consecrated hosts were being stored for Sunday morning’s WYD Mass, reports Vatican Radio.

According to Yago de la Lierva, head of the world Youth Day organising committee, for safety reasons most pilgrims were not able receive Holy Communion at the World Youth Day Mass.

The Pope concluded the celebration of faith by announcing that Rio de Janeiro, Brazil will host the next World Youth Day.

Rio will also host the Summer Olympics in 2016 and Brazil will host the World Soccer Cup in 2014.


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