Pope Benedict sees in World Youth Day "a prophetic response to the educational emergency of the post-modern world" - Cardinal Stansilaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity told a press conference on the 2011 WYD which takes place in Madrid next August.
Others taking part in the presentation were: Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, archbishop of Madrid and president of the Spanish Episcopal Conference; Bishop Josef Clemens, secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity; Bishop Cesar Franco Martinez, auxiliary of Madrid and co-ordinator general for WYD 2011, and Maria de Jaureguizar, vice director of the WYD communications department.
In his remarks Cardinal Rylko highlighted how "the Pope lays much emphasis on the fact that WYD should not be reduced merely to a moment of festivity. Preparation for this great event and the attention that must be given to ordinary pastoral care are an integral and decisive part thereof. The festivities and the event itself act as a kind of catalyst to facilitate an ongoing educational process. In this sense, Benedict XVI sees in WYD a prophetic response to the educational emergency of the post-modern world".
Cardinal Rouco Varela said: "World Youth Day is a clear invitation addressed to all Spanish society to draw near to Christ and His Church.... If we mange to reveal the beauty of the faith, many young and not-so-young people will proudly discover or rediscover the unearned privilege of being Catholic, and the responsibility we have to transform this world of ours into a better place for everyone".
Cardinal Varela expressed gratitude to the many thousands of Spanish and international volunteers who are preparing now and will be helping as 16-21 August draws near. Many families of Madrid will also welcome pilgrims into their homes. He also thanked all those who have donated funds to make the huge event possible.
He praised "the positive climate of collaboration which has existed since the start with the Spanish public authorities. The welcome given to WYD by the national government, the Autonomous Community of Madrid and the city authorities, was favourable and effective from the first moment".
Bishop Clemens analysed the Pope's Message for WYD, noting the autobiographical references Benedict XVI includes in the text. "The Pope mentions his personal experiences on three occasions", said Bishop Clemens. "In doing so he shows - as he has during meetings with children and young people in the past - great closeness and sensibility towards the specific challenges and difficulties youth must face. His words and gestures demonstrate a sincere desire to share with young people, revealing great tact and an attentive and realistic language".
"The Holy Father's first autobiographical reference begins with the experience of his own youth as a period of 'great seeking', but also of 'seeking what is great'", said Bishop Clemens. Benedict XVI speaks of the Nazi period, but his experiences are in some way "transferable to the situation of young people today who, though in a different way, also experience being 'closed' in a world where consumerism and personal relations based on interest often prevail".
The second reference is to youth as a time of great decisions, and the Holy Father recalls his own decision to become a priest. "The Pope's words", the bishop said, "reflect the experience of many young people who well know that great decisions, often difficult decisions, must subsequently be re-conquered and defended. We all know the widespread difficulty of our time of taking and remaining faithful to great decisions, of committing oneself for a lifetime. It is in this context that the Pope points out the virtues ... of faithfulness and coherence, of willingness and service, as indispensable premises for an 'authentic' life".
Thirdly, in his Message Benedict XVI identifies the response that will guide us throughout our lives. "A response that comes from the depths of his heart and from the experience of his long life", said Bishop Clemens. "This response is God, it is faith in Him, it is the meeting with Jesus Christ; ... the real Jesus, not the Jesus of a hypothesis or a scientific theory. As an 'existential foundation' he offers the experience of his own 'personal search for the face of the Lord', which he achieved and developed over long years of study, prayer and meditation".
Bishop Cesar Franco Martinez focused his remarks on the programme and the organisational aspects of WYD. According to information collected from various episcopal conferences, he said, WYD 2011 promises to be one of the best-attended of those organised in Europe although, because of the economic crisis afflicting Spain, it will be marked by a certain sobriety. It will also be a "very Spanish" WYD because the Pontifical Council for the Laity, indicating that each WYD must be firmly rooted in its host country, has asked that there be "a special presentation of Spanish history and culture".
The principal aim of WYD in Madrid is to relaunch pastoral activity among young people. "Society is witnessing a fall in religious practice among youth", the bishop explained. "The latest official information shows that among under-25s the level of religious practice is less than ten percent, while 48.1 percent of young people declare themselves as non-practicing. It is precisely them we wish to reach".
For the latest WYD news from the official website, see: World Youth Day 2011 MADRID