Archive for February, 2011

2,000 young people from all over the world will gather in the days leading up to WYD


Madrid, November 23, 2010.- Málaga is full of excitement caused by the preparations for World Youth Day (WYD). The young Spanish Oblates are preparing to welcome the thousands of pilgrims that will visit them next August in the days leading up to WYD.

The Oblates’ greatest contribution to Madrid11 will be the International Oblate Youth Encounter held in the Diocese of Málaga. It is a gathering of young Oblates from all over the world that will take place in the week previous to WYD (from August 11th-15th), to welcome over 2,000 young people from Spain and other parts of the world such as Australia, Sri Lanka, Canada, or Paraguay. This isn’t the first time that this encounter takes place, it was also done in Sydney and Cologne.

The objectives of these days in Málaga are to prepare the young people for WYD, to hear testimonies that will help them go deeper into the missionary spirit in their lives, and to encourage an intercultural exchange in the Oblate family through an interpersonal encounter, for which catechesis, Masses and meetings are organized. All of this will be done in the different languages of WYD. To be able to reach their goal, the Oblates are counting on eight parishes and a sports center to receive the pilgrims.

Lorena is one of the young people that collaborates with the congregation. She is 21 years old, and tells how excited she is for WYD to arrive. She participated in other World Youth Days in 2005 and 2008, and from her own experience she affirms that she is looking forward to “see so many people that live the faith like you do, that have the same experience as you. To share this is a very impacting feeling.”


Fr. Ismael García is in charge of coordinating the preparations of this mass encounter. This includes speaking to the local authorities to find places for the youth to stay, asking banks to help to finance the costs, and even contacting food chains to be able to nourish the pilgrims. His work also includes looking for cultural activities that will show the Spanish culture to the young foreigners, or searching for translators to facilitate communication during those days. They are also doing everything that is possible to get help in order to bring in young people from disadvantaged countries, like Bangladesh.

But Fr. Ismael is not alone. Lorena and the rest of the young volunteers are getting together regional choirs and flamenco groups, who with their art will give testimony of the Andalusian patrimony and culture to the foreigners that will come to the International Oblate Youth Encounter. They are also going to the schools of Málaga to make the youth aware of the unforgettable experience that this great Catholic youth event will be.

After the days in Málaga, they will all travel to Madrid to meet up with the thousands of other young people who will be waiting for them in the Spanish capital. There, they will stay in Pozuelo de Alarcón, a city close to Madrid, where the Oblates have a house of formation. During those days they will have a ceremony in commemoration of the martyrs that died in that house, and that will soon be beatified.

For those two weeks the Oblate theme has been adapted from the WYD theme: “With the Oblate martyrs, planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith.”

There are over  4,440  Oblates dedicated to preaching the Gospel throughout the whole world and helping wherever they are needed. They were born in 1816 when their founder and patron, St. Eugene of Mazenod began to spread the Christian message throughout Provence in France. Now, their way of life, based on simplicity, seeks to become like the first Christian communities.

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Your musical composition could be played at WYD, so send it on in!


Madrid, November 22, 2010- Now’s your chance! Following the release of the official World Youth Day Hymn, we are looking for young people like yourself to participate in the musical contributions to World Youth Day.
World Youth Day will be holding a contest to select several songs to be played during the celebrations in Madrid in August 2011.

The WYD Madrid Hymn was released on November 8th, on the eve of the feast of Madrid’s patron, Our Lady in her title of “La Virgen de la Almudena.” According to where and when it is to be used, the Hymn has various versions: a liturgical, a festive, and a more recreational and youthful one. Both lyrics and music have been chosen with the purpose of inviting young people to prayer, to reflect upon the WYD theme, and to celebrate this event. In the words of Bishop Cesar Franco, “The WYD Hymn is a song to Christ. It couldn’t be any other way. From the beginning of Christianity the Church has sung of Christ as the Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary. The young people that participate in WYD follow Christ, they love Him, and they sing joyfully to Him.”

Contest rules will be published in the coming weeks. The lyrics submitted should revolve around the theme of World Youth Day: “Planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith.” The Pope’s message for World Youth Day in Madrid explains the theme in a very clear way that could be a source of inspiration for the WYD song composers.

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The areas at Cuatro Vientos are beginning to be assigned


Madrid, November 25, 2010.- The work to prepare Cuatro Vientos, where the WYD ceremonies will be held on Saturday and Sunday, will soon begin. The Organizing Committee has decided that the areas for the pilgrims will be assigned according to the idea “The sooner you register, the closer you will be to the Pope.”

That is to say, those who complete their registration early, filling in all of the group information and making their economic contribution, will be in the zones that are closer to the Holy Father’s platform during the Vigil on Saturday and the Mass on Sunday.

In this way, the Organizing Committee wishes to reward and thank those who pay beforehand for their collaboration with the organizational costs (preparing Cuatro Vientos, accommodations, maintenance, etc.)

You can also receive the 5% discount for those who complete their registration before the 31st of March.

The distribution of zones will be as follows, according to the attached provisional plan:

•    Zone O: This zone will be for the disabled, the winners of the social networks’ “Fila O” contests, the official delegations of different countries, the authorities, and the sponsors of WYD.
•    Zone A: This is the area for the groups that register early. “The sooner you register, the closer you will be to the Pope.”
•    Zones B and C: These zones will also be assigned according to when you register.

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Young people from this Kenyan city need your help to be able to come to WYD

Jóvenes de MalindiMadrid, November 29, 2010.- Malindi is a city situated on the coast of Kenya. It is a dominantly touristic area and residence to many Italians. It has great human and economic potentials, but the lack of formation of its people is what holds back its progress.

One of WYD’s collaborators recently went to Africa invited by “Manos Unidas,” a Non-Governmental Organization for Development, run by the Catholic Church and made up of volunteers. He took advantage of the visit to the different projects run by “Manos Unidas” to spread the word about the international encounter that will take place in Madrid next summer.

When he gave the young people some WYD t-shirts and told them what the event in Madrid will consist in, they “were excited and frustrated at the same time, because they gain less than 2 dollars a day,” he tells us.

Solidarity Fund

From his time spent there, we can see the need for many other young people to register for World Youth Day and collaborate in the Solidarity Fund as soon as possible, so that other young people without recourses, like those from Malindi, can also participate in this great celebration of faith.

The Diocese of Malindi was created in the year 2000 and it has a team that, led by the Bishop, has made enormous progress in these first years. It covers an area of over 33,000 square kilometers (it is the size of Belgium), and is divided between the coast and the interior of the country. 50% of the population is Muslim, 30% Christian, and 20% animist.

PovertyJóvenes de Malindi 2

The young people of Malindi find themselves in a contradictory situation. They live in poverty while, at the same time, tourists enjoy luxuries that aren’t available to the locals. There is a large range of jobs, but due to their lack of formation, they do not remain in any position very long. The following step for some of them is to fall into drugs or prostitution as an easy way to gain money.

Another shocking fact: 20% of the population is infected with AIDS, and more and more children are born with the virus.  Among other things, there is also a water shortage. In some areas, the people have to walk 10 km to find water, and as is usual, it is the task of women and children.

However, the young people and women of Malindi have joined together to try and come out of this poverty. Led by their bishop, they obtained some land where they built a formation center called “Saint Francis Xavier Institute.” It offers courses in human formation and training in the most common trades: tailors, waitresses, cooks, gardeners, childcare, etc. Although they want to have the capacity for 300 people, there are currently about a hundred students (mostly young women) who are between the ages of 17 and 21 years old.

Joy and Optimism

Our friend tells us that what most impressed him was “the profound devotion and faith that these young people show. I was able to assist Mass there on two occasions, and you could sense their strong faith and joy. I also attended night prayer where, without any religious or priest being present, they prayed with great freedom and devotion.

But, to his surprise, despite the day-to-day difficulties, he found them to be optimistic, joyful and modern. “As soon as they had finished praying the Rosary, the Creed, and other short prayers, they turned on some music and began to dance, creating an environment of healthy fun,” he comments.

Hopefully, with the help of everyone, we can count on a representation of young people from Malindi at WYD. Your dream is our dream. By paying just 10€ more when you register, you can help these young people, and others like them, to participate in WYD with you. 

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Time’s up and selection has begun

Madrid, ecember 2, 2010- During the week of World Youth Day, Madrid will not only be hosting the events with the Pope, but also the cultural activities that show – through the universal language of beauty – faith expressed through culture. During these months, the Department of Culture has received over 500 proposals from 48 countries across the world offering to form part of the cultural line-up for WYD. This past November 20 was the deadline for submitting their ideas and now the time has come to make a selection.

interior 2

There have been a wide variety of artistic forms presented, including musicals, photograph exhibits, plays, films…even dances from every corner of the globe (Africa, India, South and Central America, etc.). “It is amazing to see how behind each project there is an entire group of people involved. There are many young people getting ready for WYD this way,” says Isaure (seen in the photo), a young woman from France who is working in the Department for Culture.

The figure and message of Benedict XVI’s predecessor is the overriding theme in most of the projects presented: e.g. Karol Wojtyla as a poet and writer, or his message about sexuality and affectivity, etc. There have also been proposals for presentations on the activity of the Church in countries where she is persecuted, or in areas experiencing economic hardship or in situations of war.

The Artistic Wealth of Spain

Following Benedict XVI’s recent visit to Spain, the country’s artistic treasures (e.g. the Cathedral of Santiago and the Basilica of “Sagrada Familia”) have emerged onto the world stage. Not surprisingly, a high percentage of cultural projects have been submitted from the host country.
interior 1
Beauty and faith are not mutually exclusive, as Antonio Gaudí, architect of “Sagrada Familia”, demonstrated in his life and work. In the recent consecration of the Basilica, Benedict XVI referred to him as “a creative architect and a practicing Christian,” to which he added: “Beauty is one of mankind’s greatest needs; it is the root from which the branches of our peace and the fruits of our hope come forth.”

Now comes the hardest part: “reviewing each of the proposals one by one, and seeing which of them are feasible and appropriate in light of the World Youth Day spirit,” said Carla Diaz de Rivera, Technical Director of the Department of Culture. The proposals are judged on: the universality of the message, the artistic quality, modern relevance, and the technical, organizational, and financial possibilities. In addition, an effort will be made so that a variety of themes and geographical places are represented in the Festival.

Everything is focused on the sole purpose of showing young people the faith through the universal language of beauty and culture. In short, this means making it obvious that Christianity cannot be reduced to barren moralism or a heavy yoke of “do’s” and “don’ts”. Instead, they should discover that the Gospel opens up a thrilling horizon that is worth risking their lives for.

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Spain’s Most Important Choir to Perform at WYD

DonostiarraMadrid, December 3, 2010 – The Donostiarra Choir (Orfeón Donostiarra) will be collaborating with World Youth Day (WYD) Madrid 2011. The choir will perform at the Youth Vigil and Sunday Mass with the Holy Father, at Cuatro Vientos Air Base. It will offer a concert to welcome authorities.

“The musical repertoire has not yet been determined, but we would like to perform both religious music and folklore pieces from different parts of Spain,” said Choir Director José Antonio Sainz Alfaro.

The Donostiarra Choir is an amateur choir that was founded on January 21, 1897 in the city of San Sebastián, Guipúzcoa (Basque Country, Spain), currently composed of 185 voices. Attesting to its greatness is an extensive list of awards that endorse it as the most important choral group in Spain and one of the best in the world.

Javier Cremades, Main Events Director of WYD, paraphrased St. Augustine, saying: “Whoever sings prays twice. How much truer it is if he sings well and even more so, if he sings not only for the WYD participants, but for everyone who will see it televised as well.”

foto1Bishop José Ignacio Munilla, Bishop of San Sebastián, explained that the initiative arose from a group of people in the city who have now “seen their dreams come true.” “I hope the Holy Father will enjoy your performing, as he is a person with a very fine ear and a highly cultivated soul. Above all, I hope you lift the hearts of the young people who will participate in this event,” stressed Munilla.

The President of the Choir, Jose Mari Echarri, insisted that “the proposal to participate in World Youth Day was received by all our members with genuine emotion.”

The collaboration of the Donostiarra Choir is just another sign of the vast civic platform that is supporting World Youth Day. It is also a sign of WYD’s profound desire to demonstrate “the path of beauty that leads to God,” as highlighted by Bishop Cesar Franco, General Coordinator of WYD and Auxiliary Bishop of Madrid. He also mentioned his sincere gratitude to the Donostiarra Choir for their generous collaboration.

The presentation was held at the Pons Foundation, a nonprofit organization that collaborates with WYD. The mission of this Foundation is to promote the transmission of values in order to promote respect, peaceful coexistence, and social development.

Rueda de prensa

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1,200 youth from Scouts and Guides of Europe to participate as volunteers


Madrid, December 6, 2010- The Scouts have spent months preparing for World Youth Day (WYD) in Madrid. The event will not only be an occasion for thousands of them traveling to Spain in August 2011, as the Scouts are also part of the organization that will provide 1,200 youth to the organizational volunteer corps.

The participation of these young people is the result of an agreement between the organization of World Youth Day and the International Union of Guides and Scouts of Europe. It is the first time that World Youth Day has signed an agreement with the association, allowing its members to collaborate in the organization of the event.

During the days of WYD, the Scout volunteers will help out with the management and accommodation of pilgrims in the hosting sites and in the main events. These Scouts, who come from 17 different countries worldwide, will work in groups of six.

The International Union of Guides and Scouts of Europe is a federation of 17 national Scout associations formed by 55,000 young Catholics from around Europe, including Russia, Czech Republic, Ukraine, France, Italy, Spain and beyond. This Catholic movement was recognized on September 19, 2008 as a Private Association of Faithful by the Holy See and the Spanish Bishops’ Conference.

Not Only Volunteer Work
Scouts who are not volunteers will also enjoy the experience of WYD in the spirit and unity that characterizes this movement. In the days leading up to August 11-15, 2011, the Scouts participating in the program of Days in the Diocese (in preparation for World Youth Day), will have the opportunity to stay in various dioceses in Spain in order to meet up with local Scouts and those from other countries. During those days, we will promote prayer, solidarity, and the discovery of the Christian roots of Spanish culture through activities related to history, sports, art, and cuisine.


“Solidarity and Fraternal Love”
John Paul II himself delivered a message to these young people in 1994, saying that the Scouts are called “to participate, with all the enthusiasm of your youth, in building a Europe of nations, to establish a society based on solidarity and fraternal love.” These are the foundations of the principles of the Guides and Scouts of Europe.

However, the spirit of the Church is also found in other aspects. The Guides and Scouts of Europe are committed to a lifestyle based on the formation of one’s character, health, manual habilities, service, and awareness of God. As the Leader of Scouts and Guides of Europe in Spain, Juan Pedro Sánchez-Horneros, affirms: “They are a pastoral instrument for churches, promoter of faith education for its members, and thus, a font of vocations to leadership and social life, as well as the personal vocation – religious and lay alike.” Priests and religious also encourage the progress of the groups and the activities they undertake in the various parishes.

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Many countries are saving up to send a group of young people who will be able to tell their experience afterwards


Madrid, December 10, 2010 – Madagascar’s youth are counting down the days left until they will travel to Madrid for World Youth Day. What once seemed an impossible dream, going to a World Youth Day, has become reality. Today, the country is making heroic efforts to send two representatives of each diocese, who will be able to tell of their experience upon their return. They will come to Europe to offer their spiritual wealth and will return to their island nation spreading the joy and hope of their experience. WYDs prove that, despite their being among the world’s developing countries, there’s something that places them on par with the rest: faith in Christ.

Madagascar has never “officially missed” a WYD. But, it was following WYD in Paris in 1997, when the Catholic Church in Madagascar and its young people truly discovered the greatness of this event. Upon their return to the island, they launched what is now known as the WYD-MADA, a national gathering led by young people who have attended the most recently held World Youth Day. You could say that WYD-MADA was a success from day one. In 2006, 6,000 young people attended and in 2009, the figure rose to 10,000! These events have obviously had a great influence on Christians in this country.

2 Un momento de las celebraciones de las JMJ-MADA

According to Cocken Razafiarison, President of the island’s Catholic Youth Group, participation in WYD has a dual mission. First, the Christian faith is reinforced: “Thanks to WYD, many discover the richness of our faith and the universality of the Church, in which social, economic, and political differences are by no means an obstacle or hindrance to perceiving our unity in Christ.” WYDs also give young people a more dynamic spirit, contributing to the improvement of youth ministry. “We have met young people who are proud to be both Malagasy and Catholics. Not only have they learned that the Church and society have something to tell them, but they have also seen that they have something to tell society!”

WYDs have an influence in many ways: Pierrot Razafindratandra and Françoise Reliny and met at World Youth Day in Sydney. Each came from different parts of the country. A beautiful friendship blossomed and they were eventually married this past August!

Los jóvenes tienen actividades deportivas, dan catequesis, asisten a retiros…Getting to Work!
There are still several months left until WYD in Madrid, but it’s time to get down to work. The Malagasy youth are preparing for the meeting with the Pope by reflecting on his Message, through retreats and prayers. Young Christians are taking on a very active role in social assistance. For example, they are working in the awareness and fight against poverty, helping the elderly, fighting AIDS, organizing vaccination campaigns… In addition to all this preparation for WYD, they will also hold sporting events at their parishes, in their districts and dioceses, and even on a national level. The cultural entertainment activities are also popular, for example, music, singing, and dancing.

Like the Early Christians

We could say that the Church in Madagascar is in its early stages. The first Christians to land on the beaches of this island were Protestants and did not arrive until 1817. The king, opposed to any foreign influence, soon threw them off the island. After the Protestants, came Catholics, who were also expelled. It was then that lay Malagasy natives, who did not renounce their faith, took the initiative of founding churches, giving catechism classes, helping the needy… and in the end, there were Christians everywhere. Their number doubled! Today, the Church of Madagascar is now in its fourth generation. Hopefully, the upcoming WYD in Madrid will give additional momentum to the Church in this country!

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7 English-speaking countries are planning the arrival of their young people

7 English-speaking countries are planning the arrival of their young people


Madrid, December 17, 2010 – Seven English-speaking countries have met to gather information on World Youth Day and coordinate the care of hundreds of thousands of young people from their countries who will spend the third week of August in Madrid. These meetings were held subsequent to the meeting in September of major embassies in Madrid and WYD organizers.

The host of the meeting was the Australian Embassy and it was attended by representatives from Ireland, the USA, the UK, South Africa, New Zealand, and Canada. To date, almost 22,000 people have registered from these countries and the total is expected to eventually reach 75,000 young people.

Among the topics discussed at the meeting were the safety of pilgrims, channels of communication, the routes through Spain that many groups will take prior to the arrival in Madrid, and how to ensure their safety. The various consulates offered various possibilities for coordinating care of their citizens and advice to ensure that their visit to Spain is not ruined by the loss or theft of passports or documents.

Moreover, embassies present at the meeting will now consider other ways of collaboration in the cultural events, with the contribution of space or events, as well as in offering information to their fellow citizens on families who are natives of their countries hosting pilgrims from their same country during WYD.

This is the 21st meeting of WYD organizers with diplomatic delegations present in Spain. The following meetings will be with African and Asian countries.

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Visiting various countries and their Christmas traditions

Madrid, December 22, 2010 – Christmas is Christian and, therefore, universal. It is a feast that is celebrated in every corner of the globe for the same purpose: to celebrate the birth of Jesus with those dear to us. However, not every country celebrates it the same way. There are hundreds of traditions around the world. There are also countries that cannot openly celebrate Christmas and they need the prayerful support of the entire Church.

Posadas de Mexico

Mexican “Posadas”

The traditional Posadas of Mexico are famous around the world. They recall Mary and Joseph in search of a place to stay for the birth of Jesus. Led in procession by a child dressed as an angel, along with family and neighbors, they walk from house to house knocking on doors without anyone giving them lodging until they reach the chosen home. Once inside, the people pray and celebrate with great joy and love, sometimes even with fireworks, for the approaching arrival of God. This ritual is performed during the novena, the nine days leading up to the night of December 24th. Daniel Saavedra, a Mexican, mentions that “during the Posadas, the piñata, which represents the seven capital sins, is broken and sweets fall from it, representing the blessings that God gives in recompense for having overcome temptations. This has been my favorite part since I was kid. Now, at age 28, I continue to enjoy it as much as ever.”

Paroles Filipinas

Philippines, full of “Parols”

If we change continents and visit the Philippines, a predominantly Catholic country, we see that the religious spirit of the feast is maintained. Here, everything begins on December 16th, with the “Midnight Mass” that is attended by all Catholics at 4:30 am for nine days, until December 24th. After each Mass, as Jaime Agon comments, “it is traditional to eat rice cakes (‘bibingka’) that are sold at the doors of the churches.”

Jaime, a young Filipino, tells us how he, like all Filipinos, puts a “Parol” (a light) in his window that symbolizes the star that led the Magi to the manger in Bethlehem. (See photo)


The twelve-course Polish dinner

In Poland, the high point of the Christmas celebration is December 24. This day, which is marked (as is the case in many countries) by a family dinner, has several special characteristics. They are all concentrated around the table, where the family will come together. Hay is placed under the table cloth to symbolize the origins of Baby Jesus. In setting the table, there is always an extra place set, in memory of relatives who are no longer present at the celebration.

That night the meal consists of twelve courses, none of which contains meat, and no alcohol is consumed, as it is a day of preparation for the central celebration, which is the Nativity. There is always the traditional wafer (“oplatek”), which for centuries has symbolized reconciliation between people.

Iraq, churches without Christmas decorations

After the attack on the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Iraq, this year there will no longer be a Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve – not even in Baghdad, or Mosul, or Kirkuk. For security reasons, the churches have no wreaths or decorations and Masses will be held in broad daylight and in more sober conditions.

There is great concern about the future of young people who, for two months now, have been unable to attend classes at college. Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk says that despite everything, “Christmas always brings a message of hope.”

Like Iraq, there are other countries without religious freedom and they need the prayer and support of the entire Church.


The Three Kings visit Spain

The most typical Spanish tradition at Christmas time is the visit of the Three Kings. They arrive in Spain on the night of January 6 to reward children who have been good all year round. On the eve of the feast, the Kings go out in the streets on floats and throw candies out to the children along the way.

In Spain, as in other parts of the world, the tradition is to put up a “Belén” (Nativity Scene) with the stable, the shepherds, the angels, and the Magi on their way to Bethlehem, following the Christmas star.

Maligayang Pasko! Świat Wesołych Bozego Narodzenia! ¡Feliz Navidad! Merry Christmas!

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