World

Pope urges pilgrims in Spain to spread faith

Pope Benedict XVI celebrated the final mass of his World Youth Festival in Spain on Sunday at an air force base outside of Madrid, where he urged more than a million young people to become missionaries for the faith.

Pontiff announces Rio as next World Youth Day venue

Pope Benedict XVI celebrated the final mass of his World Youth Festival in Spain on Sunday at an air force base outside of Madrid, where he urged more than a million young people to become missionaries for the faith.

He also announced the next edition of festival will be in Rio de Janeiro in 2013.

Benedict told those in the crowd they should not keep their faith private but participate fully in the life of their parishes and remain in communion with the church.

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

Pope Benedict XVI celebrated mass at the Cuatro Vientos airbase outside Madrid. (Armando Franca/Associated Press)

Hours earlier, a fierce thunderstorm during a prayer vigil at the airfield had forced Benedict to cut short his remarks and slightly injured six people when a tent collapsed.

Some makeshift chapels set up on the field's perimeter were also damaged, forcing organizers to announce Sunday morning over loudspeakers that not everyone would be able to receive Communion during the mass.

Despite the discomfort, pilgrims who spent the night in sleeping bags, tents and under tarps seemed unfazed as they awoke to sunny skies Sunday. Organizers announced they were opening a new area at the base to accommodate late arrivals.

"The night was amazing, I didn't sleep at all," said Adrinna Wista, a 21-year-old Polish pilgrim. "We stayed the night chatting, meeting new people and praying with them. Amazing."

Cristina Velasquez, a 29-year-old from Venezuela, said she spent the night with a group of Indian pilgrims after police, who had initially told her the airfield was full, let her in as the rain came down.

"Sleeping was difficult because the ground is quite stony. But waking up was indescribable, we are all so happy and united," she said. "The pope's words have made me proud to be making this sacrifice for his and Christ's sake."

Neither police nor the regional government have provided an official crowd count, but police said it was almost certainly over one million, which matches the predictions by organizers.

Benedict arrived at the field Sunday morning and processed through the crowd in his white popemobile to the cheers and chants of the flag-waving pilgrims. Spain's King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia were on hand.

Temperatures soar to 40 C

In his initial remarks to the crowd, Benedict said he hoped the young people had managed to get some sleep despite the weather. On Saturday, hundreds had been treated for heat-related problems amid temperatures that soared to 40 C.

The 84-year-old pontiff was kept comfortable during Sunday's Mass by a cooling system erected on the altar; a steady mist blew down on him from a golden tree-like structure shading the altar, which was set against a long undulating white backdrop.

This is Benedict's third World Youth Day, the gathering of young Catholics from around the world once every three years that was launched a quarter-century ago by Pope John Paul II in a bid to reinvigorate and spread the faith among the young.

It has the feel of a weeklong rock concert and camping trip, with bands of flag-toting pilgrims roaming through Madrid's otherwise empty streets to take part in prayer and education sessions, Masses, cultural outings and papal events.

At the end of Sunday's Mass, Benedict officially announced that the next World Youth Day will take place in Rio in 2013 —- a year early to avoid conflicts with the 2014 World Cup in Brazil —- and said he hoped to attend. Brazilians in the crowd jumped, whooped and cheered at the announcement.

"I think this is great for Brazil and its youth because it's a very Catholic country," said Brazilian pilgrim Rogerio Moreira, 35. "It's a very good experience for those who can't attend other World Youth Days."