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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A letter asking for prayers, the first step in preparing for WYD


Madrid, January 6, 2011- They say no building is raised without foundations. In World Youth Day in Madrid, this was clear from the outset. WYD is built on prayer. Following the tremendous excitement of that final day of World Youth Day in Sydney, with the announcement that the next World Youth Day would be held in Madrid, it was time to get to work.

The first step that Madrid’s Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela took was that of writing a letter to all the monasteries and convents of contemplative life in Spain, asking that they pray for the young people who would attend WYD.

Spain has over 800 monasteries spread across the country. There are Benedictines, Carthusians, Carmelites, Augustinians, Franciscans, and more, each with their own spirituality, but all with a common mission: that of serving God alone in assiduous prayer and penance.

These monasteries have also been joined by monasteries of contemplative life from all over the world who, with their prayer, are preparing for the upcoming WYD in Madrid.


 “I discovered my vocation at WYD”
At the Prayer Vigil in Hyde Park, on his visit to Great Britain, Benedict XVI encouraged all young people to listen to God’s voice: “Only Jesus knows what ‘definite service’ he has in mind for you. Ask our Lord what he has in mind for you! Ask him for the generosity to say ‘yes!’”

Among the paths in following God, he highlighted that of the “contemplative religious, who sustain the Church’s witness and activity through their constant prayer.”

But, could someone have a vocation to contemplative life in today’s world? And, most importantly, how do you know if that is your vocation?

Many young people have been touched by God at World Youth Day and later called to religious life. World Youth Day in Rome in 2000 was one such occasion for many people. A sister from one of the convents with the highest number of vocations in Spain, said: “I didn’t realize what had happened there. In fact, I don’t think I even understood what the Pope had said. But, in that event, I saw many young people living my same faith. It was as if in WYD, without realizing it, I had received an indelible mark. Every time I went to a nightclub, I heard a voice saying: ‘You have seen another way to live more fully.’ And that was how I saw my vocation and decided to enter the convent.”


One of those young people who participated in WYD in Rome, and who is now praying for us in her convent, recently reminded some of those who are working to prepare WYD in Madrid that, “one of the phrases that has most marked my life is what John Paul II said in Tor Vergata, ‘Do not look elsewhere for that which only He can give you.’ I think that’s the great mission of World Youth Day: present Christ, show young people what the world’s fleeting happiness can never offer.”

World Youth Day is grateful for the generous prayer and selfless life of so many people who, from a hidden corner of the world, sustain the preparation of each WYD.

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International Meeting of Delegates starts preparation of World Youth Day in Madrid


Madrid, January 12, 2011 – Delegates of more than 84 countries and 57 Church groups meet starting today in Madrid to finals the details of organizing the World Youth Day (WYD) to be held in Madrid from August 16 to 21, 2011.

More than 234 delegates from every continent will attend these working sessions, to be held in San Lorenzo de El Escorial, January 12 to 15. The meeting will also be attended by members of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, the Vatican “department” in charge of World Youth Days, as well as delegates from all the Spanish provinces.

The Council’s President, Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, participated in the press conference presentation of the meeting, where he highlighted that it means entering the “final stages” in the preparation of the event and opening a decisive stage in the course of the spiritual and organizational-logistics preparation of WYD Madrid 2011.”

The South African representative, Barbara Koornbally, told of the various initiatives youth in her country are carrying out in preparation. A replica of the Youth Cross – the original of which has been touring Spain since September 2009 – is going around the entire African country to prepare its young people for August in Madrid.

The delegate from Brazil, Tiago Oliveira, stressed that Brazilian youth “see Spain as a sister country, so they are very excited.” 20,000 Brazilians are expected to participate.

The President of Local Organizational Committee of World Youth Day in Madrid, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, expressed his hope that “the event is lively and dynamic”, as representatives will address “first-hand information on their needs and expectations.”

The first meeting Cardinal Rylko held on his arrival in Madrid, was with a group of young volunteers, whom he thanked for their generous collaboration with World Youth Day.

“For many young people from all over the world, it will be very important for them to see your hospitality, your spirit of sacrifice during WYD. Sometimes in hidden – although no less important – tasks,” stressed Rylko. “Don’t tell your friends: You should go to WYD! Instead say: It’s worth going!”

Those attending the International Meeting of Delegates will learn about details on different aspects of the organization: lodging, meals, transportation, registration, visas, and volunteer work.

Delegates will also have the opportunity, during these days, to visit places that will host the main events during WYD: Cuatro Vientos Airbase and the area of the Plaza de Cibeles.

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