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1.5 million attend World Youth Day

Madrid, Spain

MADRID, Spain – About 1.5 million youth attended the 2011 World Youth Day in Madrid, Spain. The week-long pilgrimage lasted from Aug. 16 to 21 with organized events including concerts, talks, masses and participation from Pope Benedict XVI.

Pope Benedict held a final outdoor mass for the pilgrims on a Madrid airport runway that was shut down for the weekend. The 2011 theme for the Catholic-based event was “Firm in the Faith,” which was used in the Pope’s speeches, as well as in smaller teaching sessions and cultural activities in multiple languages.

At the event’s organized Stations of the Cross prayer service, crowds walked the streets of Madrid, alongside displays of religious art from all over Spain.

Every two to three years, Christian youth between the ages of 18 and 39 gather for World Youth Day in cities around the world. The first official World Youth Day was held in 1986 at Rome. The next location is scheduled for Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2013.

One priest who has attended the World Youth Day three times, Rev. Andrew Gawrych, explained his reasons for traveling to the event multiple times.

“World Youth Day is a big part of my spiritual journey,” said Gawrych. “It’s so inspiring to be in crowds of 1.5 million young people who are Catholic and love Christ and are trying to follow him. I still come back fired up, completely energized to try to do my best to serve Christ and to bring his message of hope to the world.”

For more information, read The Observer article.