BY Martin Dunlop | August 21 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


World Youth Day Blog-Vigil Mass

Reporting live from Madrid, Sunday, August 21 2011

On arrival at Cuatro Vientos airfield in Madrid yesterday evening for Pope Benedict XVI’s vigil, I took aside five to ten minutes, during which I had to simply stand and watch what was unfolding in front of me. I am aware that referring to the growing number of WYD pilgrims has become a bit of a constant theme throughout this blog, but what lay in front of me was something special. Cuatro Vientos covers the same area as approximately 50 football fields but it was absolutely packed full of pilgrims -many of whom would have spent the majority of the day, and last night, in the field. I could only describe the picture as being similar to the view when you look out to sea and no land can be seen for as far as the eye can see. The difference being that the blue sea was represented at Cuatro Vientos by every colour imaginable as pilgrims waved flags and banners and wore their WYD T-shirts.

Pilgrims were kept entertained in the build up to the vigil by various music and dance acts. I can only speak for the time that I arrived at but, thankfully, by early evening time, there was some cloud cover and a slight breeze in the air. In the hour prior to the arrival of Pope Benedict, the atmosphere seemed to get a bit quieter amongst the pilgrims. Little wonder, I suppose, given the exertions of the previous four days. In the moments prior to the Pope’s arrival, pilgrims watched footage of his visit to the nearby Hospital Fundacion Instituto San Jose, where the Holy Father met young disabled children who were unable to attend his vigil.

As the night sky began to fall, the images of Cuatro Vientos relayed on the big screens placed around the park made for some stunning pictures. The pilgrims were ready to welcome the Holy Father.

During the past six days I have felt little more than a few drops of rain, which have fallen during the early morning. This was all to change, however, not long into yesterday evening’s vigil. Just after the Holy Father had begun his Homily, the rain began to fall. As is normally the case on the continent, rainfall does not occur in half measures. A thunderstrom soon broke out and, for around 20 minutes, the Pope was almost completely covered in umbrellas, it made for quite an extraordinary scene on the altar. I suppose it is quite apt that Cuatro Vientos means ‘four winds’ in Spanish.

“You prayed for rain as it has been so warm, and now your prayers have been answered!” the event’s announcer shouted to the pilgrims from the altar.

Although the rain soaked the pilgrims – and probably damaged some of their temporary accommodation (I have since heard that six people were slightly injured after a tent collapsed) – it did not seem to dampen their spirits. If anything the shouts of ‘Viva el Papa’ ‘Benedicto’ and ‘Esta es el juventud del Papa’ increased in volume during the storm as pilgrims roared their encouragement to the Holy Father (pictured below).

After a period of around half an hour, in which nobody seemed to have any clear idea as to what was happening, the Pope partly finished his message, in which he urged young people to ask God to help them discover their vocations in modern society and in the Church. The Pope also spoke about the indissolubility of marriage.

(Find the Holy Father’s intended address in full at

The majority of pilgrims went on to spend the night at Cuatro Vientos, where they had the opportunity to worship the Blessed Sacrament.

Viva el Papa!

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