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Sunday, 21st August


At 8:30 am the climax of our pilgrimage -
the Holy Father presides at Mass.

At the end of the Mass the Youth Cross and icon of Our Lady
was handed over by the youth of Spain to the youth of Brazil.
The next World Youth Day will be in 2013 in Rio de Janeiro.


(The Mass begins at 0:27:25)

English translation of the Holy Father's homily

The Holy Father left this afternoon to return to the Vatican

English translation of the Holy Father's departure speech

We returned to the college to have our evening meal together ...
...and tomorrow we return to England.




Saturday, 20th August

From 8:00 am the Sacrament of Reconciliation was offered
in 200 outdoor confessionals in the
Jardines del Buen Retiro.

The Holy Father spent some time hearing confessions.

We left the college in the morning to travel to Cuatro Vientos
aerodrome for the Prayer Vigil. A journey on the Metro was
followed by an hour's 'pilgrimage walk' to the site where
we found a suitable place in our allocated zone.

Before the Vigil the Holy Father visited the
San José Institute for young people with disabilities

Short news report of this visit:

English translation of the Holy Father's homily to
young people with disabilities

On our way to the Vigil ...

It is estimated that nearly 2 million young people would be there
for the Vigil and would stay overnight for the Mass on Sunday.


The Vigil of Prayer started at 8:30 pm and consisted of
music and song, a ceremony of candlelight, testimonies,
greetings from the Holy Father and Benediction.
Eucharistic adoration and the chance for quiet reflection
was available in many chapels around the site.

The Holy Father was to give a homily, but this was
disrupted by a sharp blustery shower.

© Mazur/catholicchurch.org.uk

© Mazur/catholicchurch.org.uk

A short news report:

English translation of the Holy Father's homily




Friday, 19th August

The final session of the catechesis was held this morning.


There is a sense of expectation and excitement in the air of Madrid that is more noticeable now that the Pope has become a World Youth Day pilgrim. He, like all of us here in Madrid, has responded to a call; a call to gather in prayer. His presence among us helps us to appreciate even more clearly that this gathering of young people from all over the world is a very real and tangible manifestation of the universal, 'Catholic', Church.

I have heard many different languages spoken and sung - and even recognised some of them. But even though we speak in different tongues and have different cultural backgrounds, we are all called to listen and hear the One true God. He invites everyone to listen and respond to Him; collectively with the universal call to holiness, but also to the still small voice that calls each one of us by our own individual name.

A name that we will hear again and again over the next few days, in many different languages, tunes and volumes is 'Benedict'. The Holy Father, I would think, would rather we keep the volume down - but recognises that he is the focus because he is the Vicar of Christ, acting as a channel for Jesus. This is part of his special ministry for God, part of his calling - his vocation. Responding to our personal calling involves big life decisions - what does God want me to focus my life on - but also medium and small decisions: coming to Madrid for World Youth Day was a choice to respond to the invitation God made to us.

The loud and exuberant welcome we gave to the Pope yesterday will be contrasted with the more serious reflection we make today on the Way of the Cross. Jesus answered his Father's call - he listened and chose to say yes to the will of the Father, even at such a huge cost. As we take part in the remembering of Jesus' last hours, we also pray that we too may be given the courage to make the right choices in our lives. We pray too that the Lord will open our eyes that we may see the path he wants us to take; that He may open our ears that we may more clearly hear his calling to us; and that He may open our hearts so that the Holy Spirit may one again fill us with the spirit of love and generosity.

'Viva' is a free newspaper distributed to pilgrims in Madrid -
please click on the box to read the full edition


The Holy Father arrived at the Plaza de Cibeles at 7:30 pm
for the Way of the Cross.
Each station was a tableau of statues and the Youth Cross,
entrusted by the Blessed John Paul II to the youth of the world
in 1984, was carried by different groups between the stations.

© Mazur/catholicchurch.org.uk

(Way of the Cross starts at 0:23:50)

English Translation of the Holy Father's homily



Thursday, 18th August

The Holy Father arrives in Madrid ...

The Holy Father landed at Madrid-Barajas Airport
this morning at 11:00 am. He was welcomed by
King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia.

... and is welcomed by the WYD pilgrims

Southwark pilgrims headed for Retirio Park before
greeting the Pope at the Plaza de Independencia.
At 6:15 pm he walked with some young pilgrims
through the Puerta de Alcalá and then travelled in the popemobile
to the Plaza de Cibeles for a Liturgy of the Word after
which he gave his first homily.

Deacon James Bradley of the Personal Ordinariate of
Our Lady of Walsingham sang the Gospel.
He was ordained to the diaconate by Bishop John
at Aylesford Priory in May this year

English translation of the Holy Father's homily

And a short news report from Vatican Television:



Wednesday, 17th August


With the Opening Mass, the schedule of World Youth Day begins. Over three days there are gatherings of pilgrims. As this is an international event, different venues hold the gatherings in particular languages. The venues are often large local churches, although we had heard that one venue was a large stadium. Spanish is of course the most common language among pilgrims and about one hundred venues had been provided. English seemed to come in at about third or fourth place and about twenty different venues were options for our pilgrims. The 'nearest' to our home base was about half an hour travel by Metro: the parish of San Antonio, run by the Franciscans.

The format of the mornings followed a standard pattern: beginning about 10am with some musical praise, followed by a brief round the world tour of groups with each vying for the loudest cheer competition! A little more musical worship was interposed with a couple of the young pilgrims giving a brief testimony, speaking about their life, their faith, and their experience of previous Youth Day(s). The next stage of the morning was a catechesis on the WYD theme by a Cardinal or Bishop, after which he would give the young pilgrims an opportunity to ask questions, either on the talk or in fact on any subject. The time together concluded with the celebration of Mass, at which the main speaker presided and preached.

Today three days of catechesis began. During the mornings
from Wednesday until Friday we will be exploring the faith in
language groups guided by a talk from a bishop.

As well as the talks about the faith, the mornings include
prayer, song, questions and discussions and conclude
with the celebration of Mass followed by lunch.

The topics for these mornings are taken from the WYD theme:
'Planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith'.
(St Paul's letter to the Colossians 2:7)

Wednesday - Firm in the Faith
Thursday - Established in Jesus Christ
Friday - Witnesses to Christ in the World


The first speaker at our venue was Bishop Anthony Fisher OP, of Parramatta, Australia. He spoke mainly on part of the theme "firm in the faith". He thanked God for young people of worldly families who, perhaps despite possible difficulties, are 'firm in the faith.'

 Evangelisation is a challenging process, one in which there is a time to speak, but also a time to be quiet - and we need the Holy Spirit to help us work out which is right for the people we are with. Bishop Anthony quoted St Francis of Assisi (not for the only time that week) when he said that we should preach the Gospel at all times, and even use words if necessary.

In this topsey turvey world sometimes today it is the young people who wake and encourage their parents to go to Mass on a Sunday.

 In the question and answer session, as he was involved in the Sydney Youth Day in 2008, he was asked about the effect WYD has had in Australia. He felt it was still early days, but he had asked a similar question to the Archbishop of Denver about the effects of WYD in his Diocese and he said that he thought that the city certainly seemed more Catholic. The bishop commented that Parramatta Diocese had 20 struggling youth groups before WYD, but now has more than 80 strong groups; vocations would come in time!

He also referred to the sacrament of marriage, and how important adequate preparation is important: his view is that that preparation begins at conception, rather simply a few months before the wedding day.

The principal celebrant at the Mass was
Cardinal Sean O'Malley, OFMCap, Archbishop of Boston,
who was joined by 8 bishops and about 50 priests.

This evening, once back at the college, there was a liturgy,
prepared by Father Damien, OCarm, with the opportunity
to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation.


After an afternoon of being in the city (or trying to rest quietly) the Diocesan group gathered together in the evening for a reconciliation service and the opportunity for individual confession. Fr Damien, of the Carmelite community at Aylesford, led the service and gave a powerful reflection on the love and joy that can be experienced in this healing sacrament.

At the end of the group part of service, the ten priests present moved apart to provide space for the young people to go to confession. A report afterwards told of one person, one of the first to go, emerging in tears ... and her friends were concerned and decided not to go themselves. The tearful pilgrim was adamant that they should go as it had been a most moving experience. This person was not to be the only one in tears ... not I think of distress, but more of deep emotion and perhaps release.

The shared experience of the pilgrimage and the atmosphere of trust that had developed over the three days together had provided the right circumstances for the young pilgrims. It had been a grace-filled moment of trust in God, the Church and the mutual support the pilgrims provided to each other. The general feeling was that all the young people took the chance to reflect, to confess, to be absolved and receive God's peace.




Tuesday, 16th August


As the Tuesday morning sun begins to show itself so do the young pilgrims - another bright and hot day is expected, at least from the sun - few of those who wander in to breakfast are likely to be described as looking bright, several appear to be sleepwalking into the dining room. The planned film didn't materialise, as no key could be found for the auditorium, and so the 'slow down' plan will have to wait for another night for its first test. Rumour has it that, although lights went out at about midnight, several small groups went for some night air and conversation within the college grounds not returning until gone two, hence the tired expressions.

The Diocesan group gathered for prayer at 9.15am, and celebrated "Morning Prayer" of the Church. A large Mass is scheduled for tonight, and so Morning Prayer is ideal for the pilgrims. Morning Prayer is part of the daily life of prayer shared by priests, deacons, religious, and many lay people throughout the world; collectively known as the Divine Office (Morning, Evening and Night Prayer, Prayer during the day, and the Office of Readings). Morning Prayer is formed of: psalms, and a canticle (a scripture text that is similar in style to a psalm), a short reading from the Bible, the Benedictus (a song of praise from Luke's Gospel), some bidding prayers, the Our Father, a concluding prayer and a blessing. Although this sounds a great deal, it is a good way to prayerfully start the day (about 20 minutes of prayer time).

With a few announcements at the end, the main group broke up into their mini groups to plan the day. The main group will gather together at 6pm, so armed with meal vouchers (and hopefully plenty of water and sun cream) the pilgrims venture out once more (or maybe rest up a bit).


Tucked away at the bottom of the pilgrims' rucksacks, pulled there by gravity, is a small box - which at first looks like a box of tablets or some other medicine (deliberately so as it will turn out).  

The label reads "nadie tiene Amor + grande" which roughly translates as "no one has greater love". At the bottom of the box in an official looking typeface is the Spanish phrase for 'no prescription required'. When you open the box, similar to packets of tablets, you first discover a sheet of paper - which appears to have been folded by a black belt expert in origami. Near the top of this detailed sheet of instructions is the Spanish phrase "Lea to do este prospect detenidamente abtes empezar a usar El crucifijo" - 'read this leaflet carefully before using the crucifix'. This last phrase a large clue to what is at the centre of the box, a wearable crucifix with a neck cord

The name of this 'medicine' is taken from Jesus' words "no greater love has a man than to lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). I am unsure if there is a full English translation of the 'medical' instructions found in the box ... but they are in small print and give the impression of being quite detailed.

This gift from the Spanish organisers of the World Youth Day to the pilgrims is a wonderful visual reminder that God's love, particularly made manifest through the Passion of his Son on the Cross, is a most powerful medicine. It may not have a precisely definable list of the exact effects on an individual, but it has no long term negative side effect and has been in use since the beginning of time. It is something we should hope to carry with us wherever we go, to be taken regularly and shared freely.

Let's hope that many of the pilgrims will discover the little box in their bag, wear the crucifix with joy, not just this week, but always. And always to let it show through their words and actions.


Prinicpal Celebrant: Cardinal Antonio Rouco Varela
Archbishop of Madrid
at 8:00 pm in the Plaza de Cibeles

English Version of Cardinal Antonio Rouco Varela's homily

Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko's address to half a million pilgrims



Bishop Pat Lynch (who looks after the SE area of London) and Canon James Cronin (a Southwark priest who looks after Missio in England and Wales, the official Vatican body which coordinates Missionary work) arrived this afternoon - after a three hour delay on their flight. They have joined the Diocesan group at the Cabrini College, just in time for the formal opening of the final stage of the WYD build up - the Opening Mass.

After spending the afternoon in and around the centre of Madrid our small groups converged on 'Gran Via' Metro station at 6pm, so that they could be together for the wonderful celebration of the Opening Mass. 6pm felt a little early for Mass at 8pm, but as an estimated 500,000 people were present perhaps 6pm wasn't early enough!

Big screens relayed images of the Altar, the Choir, film of some of the build-up to Madrid 2011 and comment from the two compères - all this accompanied by, as one priest described it, 'young people's music'. With no cloud to be seen in the sky, the sun shone strong and bright, and the group drank bottles and bottles of water, before and during the Mass. There was a friendly, joyful and prayerful atmosphere in the area where our group were; and several of the young people exchanged greetings and gifts with others around them - the Korean group seemed to have the best array of gifts to give out.

With the sun still beaming the Mass began at 8pm with the entry of the Archbishop of Madrid and some of the Cardinals who had travelled many a mile to get there (the other bishops and priests had already taken their places, otherwise the entrance procession alone may have taken more than half an hour). As the Archbishop finished incensing the altar and arrived at his chair the music came to an end and a hush fell on the congregation ... and stayed, as the microphone near his chair seemed to be broken - until a crouching technician arrived, and flicked a switch to turn it on!

The Mass was that of Blessed John Paul II - the Pope who did so much to encourage and develop the WYD experience. It was difficult to follow for most of the Diocesan group as it was mainly in Spanish, with the readings and some of the prayers in other languages - one of the bidding prayers was read by a woman with an American accent. Each pilgrim had in the official backpack a copy of the 'Pilgrim's Booklet' - we all have the English version to help us (for those who remembered to take them to the Mass!)

The Archbishop of Madrid gave a lengthy homily (in Spanish, of course), which was interrupted occasionally by applause from the gathered congregation. We joined in - although we didn't really know why we were clapping! The Mass continued as the sun sank behind the buildings (although the temperature didn't want to drop, staying well up beyond comfortable, nearer to sweltering). The electric lights, which had seemed to be pointless at 6pm, became more and more necessary as Mass didn't finish until almost 10pm. Although there were hundreds of thousands of people present Communion seemed to go smoothly.

With so many people to leave a small area of Madrid, it took quite a while to get back to base, especially with so many using the Madrid Metro system - some didn't make it back until Wednesday! (OK between midnight and 1am). Weary from the heat, the travels and the heavy prayer load, all but the hardiest rapidly turned in. Reports have it that the Italians began a football kick around with some of our pilgrims when they got back... Sister Superior wasn't at all pleased! The Madrid late night football (or really early morning) season is officially over.

Tomorrow sees the start of the three days of Catechesis in the city with over a hundred different venues hosting prayer and praise, a talk by a bishop or cardinal, and then finishing with Mass - several different language options are available across the city; but I think our group will stick to English.

Archbishop Peter with a bishop from Australia

Bishop Patrick with Bishop Terence (from Middlesborough)

Canon James Cronin and Father John Diver (centre)




Monday, 15th August


With the sun rising and the slightest of breezes, the day reluctantly begins. With breakfast from 8am till 10, the dining room unexpectedly fills up by 8.10!

With some of the group still awake at 2am, and the people on the last plane not arriving at the College until about half past midnight, those gathered for breakfast still seem to give off a sense of being wide awake ... perhaps due to the rota for using the showers? The college caterers bring round coffee, and pour it into glasses! Don't they realise we are English! Where on earth should I pour the fruit juice? Knives and forks on the table lull some of the leaders into a false hope of something spectacular ... maybe they do know where we are from after all, perhaps the full English is to follow. No such luck, no bread either - let them eat cake (and fruit) instead - for some an ideal start to the day: coffee and chocolate cake (apple muffins provide an alternative).

Never fear, pick up a packed lunch for later ... looks suspiciously like more apples. A quick clear up as a few of the more jaded faces walk in the dining room, and plenty of time to get ready for Mass at 10am.

Our first morning - time for a team briefing led by
John Toryusen, Director of the Southwark Catholic Youth Service ...

Archbishop Peter has a word with the team


Archbishop Peter presided at the first Mass of the Pilgrimage - and fittingly it was the first time we had all gathered together. Lurking at the side of the College Chapel was a video camera: people from the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Russia had asked to film our Mass - Southwark goes East as well as South.

Spain celebrates the feast of the Assumption on the 15th August - not transferring it as we do at home - and so we remembered again the wonder of the Father taking Mary body and soul to heaven. Mass was offered for all the pilgrims, their families and friends, but particularly those who had been booked to come to Madrid and couldn't make it (a family death, broken bones, sickness and a lost passport).

In the Mass Archbishop Peter remembered the tragic events in England just a week ago, but also remarked that in Clapham, where he grew up, and in other places after looting and damage,  the community gathered - armed with brooms and cleaning equipment - to pull together and make right what a minority had done.

At the end of Mass, Archbishop Peter encouraged the young pilgrims to make the most of the time they would share together - as a diocesan group and with all the people who had gathered from round the world . He also reminded them of the Holy Father's words from his UK visit - to find time and space for quiet prayer, listening for what God is calling us to do today and in the future; looking for how we can serve him though others; and asking him to open our hearts that we may become more receptive to his love.

In the "notices"slot, John Toryusen passed on the day's messages; the day was relatively free, and he recommended that the groups take the opportunity of a bit of sightseeing, especially as it is a national holiday and fewer people would be in the city.

A music rehearsal before Mass

Mass of the Feast of the Assumption in the chapel
of the Cabrini College

Fr John Diver and Fr John Eze MSP

Archbishop Peter with Deacon Javier Elderfield

Pilgrims at prayer

John Toryusen makes some announcements after Mass


The formal beginning of the official proceedings of the WYD is Mass with the Cardinal Archbishop of Madrid on Tuesday evening. This has allowed the people on the pilgrimage a chance to have some time to explore the city of Madrid. The groups and their leaders set out late morning heading for the underground which would lead them to the heart of the city centre. Those seeking the delights of the shops were to be, in the main, disappointed - the festal holiday saw many of the larger shops closed for the day.

There was, however, a great atmosphere; a mix of young excitable pilgrims with the more hardy Madrid citizens - those who had not fled the soaring August temperatures. Among the sights that were seen: The Royal Palace; the Cathedral ... and McDonald's! For those not tempted by the delights of fasting ... the packed lunch did indeed contain an apple, but also sandwiches, a peach and plenty of water.

Various 'admin' matters are still underway behind the scenes, even on a level of our diocesan group. The official World Youth Day packs were distributed including: a rucksack in Spanish colours to hold everything; a sun hat, maps for the city and underground; WYD guide book, a copy of YouCat which has printed on the cover that it is a personal gift from Pope Benedict (although I think he had help putting them in the bags); a multi-lingual copy of St Matthew's Gospel; and, most helpful considering the heat, a WYD fan!

The travel tickets and the meal vouchers were collected and are ready for the young people to use.

Some of the accreditations were picked up ... Archbishop Peter can now get through the red tape to join the other bishops for the opening and papal Masses.

One update: everyone arrived safe and sound ... but not everything arrived. One suitcase missed the plane and seems to have vanished into the mysterious black hole that exists in airports. This would be a major trauma for anyone ... but John Toryusen the director of the diocesan group and of the Southwark Catholic Youth Service has taken it in his stride, despite several key bits of kit and admin 'stuff' in the bag, not to mention all his clothes (until lunchtime he only had the clothes on his back).

The leaders are hoping for a quiet night, especially as some energy was spent on what to a casual observer (at an extreme distance) may be described as a mutual exchange of water in an exuberant manner (aka, a water fight). Supper was, again, a filling and healthy mix of salad and cold meats, supplemented this evening with omelette and pasta salad (not too sure about what looked like the cold cauliflower, so gave it wide berth): so much choice on offer, so may decisions to make ... it took almost an hour for our group to pass through the serving point - many thanks to the patient and tolerant catering team here at the college (coping with of our lack of Spanish - much pointing, nodding and shaking of heads).

The plan then was to encourage a wind down: a DVD - The Way, a story of some reluctant 'pilgrims' walking the Camino to Santiago de Compostella. God alone knows if this will be successful.

This afternoon gave an opportunity for some sight-seeing
as we travelled into Madrid city centre in small groups - a chance
to become familiar with the city and the Metro.

Evident that The Assumption is an important feast in Spain -
rather like a bank holiday.

We met back at the Cabrini College for the evening meal.





Sunday, 14th August

Southwark's pilgrims have arrived in Madrid



Several groups of young people from Southwark are taking part in the journey that is WYD. Archbishop Peter is leading the largest of these which has been organised by the SCYS, with about 150 young people and leaders who travelled with him.

A staggered arrival saw the group arrive in three waves, with the last group landing in Madrid about 11pm. As Archbishop Peter emerged from the arrivals lounge we was greeted (in Spanish) by a WYD volunteer. After admitting no Spanish, the volunteer switched into excellent English, honed during his time spent in Archbishop Peter's former diocese of Cardiff, where he had been a student. It's a small world!

Transferring almost 60 people by the Metro was an interesting experience, but smooth all the same. It seemed strange using the group ticket, as it had to be passed  back over the barrier to the next person - an odd sight to anyone used to travelling the London tube.

We have been warmly welcomed by the Sacred Heart Sisters, and are staying at the school they run "Collegio Santa Francisca Javier Cabrini". The Sisters' long made WYD plans were thrown into disarray shortly before our arrival when they were strongly "invited" to provide space for a group of 560 Italian pilgrims ... now due to arrive Monday evening. Sister Concita, the community superior, has been driving round Madrid looking for their breakfast! Despite this the community ensured that the Southwark pilgrims were "fed and watered".

With slight adjustments to the original accommodation plan the pilgrims, weary from their travels, turned in for the night. Tomorrow is another day and the start of the next stage of the pilgrimage.

Arrived in the evening at Barajas Airport, Madrid,
from London Heathrow on three different flights.

During our stay in Madrid, we are the guests of the Cabrini Sisters. The order has invited Southwark pilgrims because St Francesca Cabrini, their founder, spent some time in our diocese.