Benedict XVI celebrated Mass the other day in Madrid for hundreds of thousands of young people who had come to the 26th edition of World Youth Day. This new tradition was launched by Pope John Paul II in Rome in 1985 and every few years has been gathering crowds in excess of ten million. That makes World Youth Day the largest regularly held international religious gathering on the planet.
As usual, the event was joyful and filled with celebrations of faith, but there was a cloud over the gathering this year as all of Europe and especially Spain flirted with financial disaster. Spain has a banking crisis and agonizing unemployment and so there was considerable controversy about the costs of the event. Some 150 groups organized a protest under the slogan, “The Pope’s Visit, Not With My Taxes.”
Despite the rough edges of this year’s event, it is a real credit to the lively and dynamic faith that still marks so much of today’s young people. John Paul II captivated the young of the planet and Benedict XVI, while not the star attraction that his predecessor was, is still doing a good job. In a world with so many other problems, it is hard to complain about the fact that millions of kids want to get together and celebrate their common faith in Jesus Christ.