Sunday, August 21, 2011

Rain, disappointment in Madrid. Pilgrims are resilient

With the rain at the opening ceremonies for the 2011 World Youth Day, we can certainly feel the frustration of our Spanish friends at Saturday evening's vigil, having experienced similar moments of Mother Nature at World Youth Day in Downsview Park in 2002 and at the Eucharistic Congress on the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City in 2008!

Both the Toronto and Ottawa groups were among many groups that were not allowed entrance into the Cuatro Vientos Airfield tonight due to overcrowding. The police announced that no one would be allowed into the site on Sunday morning, and asked people to attend mass in a stadium in downtown Madrid. Cardinal Ruoco Vrela cancelled all parish masses for Sunday as well!

The Spanish Civil Protection Senior Officers reported that there were about 1.4 million people at Cuatro Vientos long before the event started. The area had been prepared for 750,000. Some police said that close to 200,000 people were not allowed into the area.

Large national groups did not get access to the site, including many Australians. Also turned away were many accredited journalists who followed instructions for arrival only to find out they were refused access.

I will celebrate Mass with the Ottawa pilgrims in the late afternoon; they will watch the papal Mass on television in the morning at their hotel in Madrid.


  1. It is unfortunate that so many were turned away; however, the size of the crowd speaks to the influence of the Vicar of Christ even in post Christian Europe. Amongst the political leaders of modern Europe, so many of whom are committed to buiding a European identity divorced from the historical influence of Christianity, there is not one who can convene a gathering of young people one tenth the size of what converged on Madrid to hear the Successor of Peter. The hundreds of thousands who were turned away - precisely because they were so numerous- have sent a powerful message to those who would marginalize the Church from modern society. What happened today in Madrid in 2011 is reminiscent of the catch of the Apostles on the See of Galilee after the resurrection. Their nets were filled to breaking!

  2. I am the mother of two Australian pilgrims. Thank you, Archbishop Terry, for acknowledging that there was great disappointment. Yes, pilgrims are resilient. I sent my boys many messages of encouragement to make the best of things, when they let me know what had happened and I am sure they have been trying to do so, with their companions.. But many sites and comments I have read this morning seem to be rather smug in their tone if they mention the locked out pilgrims at all, it saddens me that so few will acknowledge the confusion and disappointment othose turned away with any compassion or empathy.

  3. I live in Spain and Cardenal Rouco Varela DID NOT cancel any Masses. What he did , as I just read in one parish web page, was REQUEST that priests make it easy for people to go to WYD final Mass or see it on TV. Thus this particular parishe cancelled SOME morning Masses. Cancelling all Masses is impossible.