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WYD Pilgrims Commemorate Way of the Cross

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The Passion and Death of Jesus was front and center today as hundreds of thousands of pilgrims joined Pope Benedict XVI for the Way of the Cross. Each of the Stations was depicted with vividly portrayed statues that Diocesan Youth Ministry Coordinator Patrick Diener tweeted as “amazing” in detail.

Meditations at the 14 Stations focused on individuals, groups and nations that are enduring suffering today.  They included prayers for the defense of human life, for peace in the Holy Land and other areas where there is conflict, for the victims of natural disasters, for the unemployed, for those who suffer racial discrimination or religious persecution, and for the victims of sexual abuse. Pope Benedict told the pilgrims that Christ's passion and death should lead each of us to ask, "What can we do for him?"

The Holy Father said, "Christ's passion urges us to take upon our own shoulders the sufferings of the world, in the certainty that God is not distant or far removed from man and his troubles." He prayed that Christ’s love would help guide the pilgrims to search for those less fortunate. “Be sure not to pass by on the other side of the road" in the face of human suffering, the Holy Father said, adding, "for it is here that God expects you to give of your very best: your capacity for love and compassion."

Many of the young Catholics watched the procession on huge Jumobtrons situated along the route, following the meditations in prayer booklets provided in their World Youth Day backpacks.

The English speaking pilgrims, including the 64 from the Diocese of Raleigh, began the day with Mass celebrated by Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York. The Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge joined with 50 other Bishops and 300 Priests in concelebrating the Mass. Reflecting on the Passion of Jesus, the Archbishop told the pilgrims, We (the Church) are held together by the nails of Christ.

Tomorrow evening, the pilgrims will make their way to a Cuatro Vientos, a large area, where they will join the Holy Father for Adoration and Benediction (2:30pm Eastern). They will remain overnight for the Closing Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict on Sunday morning (3:00am Eastern). From there they will travel back to Madrid with a return home scheduled for Monday.

Above: Young people carry the World Youth Day cross during the Way of the Cross led by Pope Benedict XVI in Plaza de Cibeles in Madrid Aug. 19. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

Above: Depiction of Second Station where Jesus Carries His Cross.

Below: Photos from the English-language Mass celebrated by Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York. Bishop Michael F. Burbidge was one of 50 Bishops and 300 Priests concelebrating.

A reflection posted by WYD pilgrim Kathryn Diener

The Church Lives!

I am experiencing the Church in such a visible way that I have lost count of how many times I have teared up in simple awe and wonder at the beauty of our Catholic faith. Our faith is living and so very much alive! And it is breathtakingly beautiful. There is an energy in Madrid that I have never experienced before. Hundreds of thousands of Catholics from all around the world are gathering in the beautiful city of Madrid to celebrate life and love in Christ! In the midst of war, economic turmoil, nothingness, and a secular culture that works to degrade the sacred dignity of every man and woman, we gather together to celebrate the life and hope within us that comes from Christ. We KNOW there is more. And gathering together in prayer, adoration, and song with our Pope is giving us a living experience of faith that we will never forget. My miracle of the day? Coming within 8 feet of Pope Benedict on some random side street on our way back to our hotel. My friends and I breathlessly rushed up to the front of the security rope and we reached out to him. As he drove by he smiled at us and blessed us. If it weren’t for the security forces in place, I have no doubt that we would have stampeded our dear Papa in love and admiration, so great was our joy. What a blessing and inspiration he is to us! Christ has challenged us to be a light of hope and strength to the world and to stand firm in the faith. Moments like these make me realize the deepest cry of my heart is to give every breath of my being to my Lord and my God and to pray ever more deeply for the strength to do so. We are alive in Christ and want all the world to know the source of our joy!!!