Pope leads prayer for young people ahead of World Youth Day
Pope Benedict XVI asked Catholics on Sunday to pray for him and for young people ahead of the Church's World Youth Day celebration in Madrid.
"Today, our thoughts turn to the young people now gathering in Madrid for World Youth Day", the pope told the faithful gathered for his Angelus prayer from the balcony of his summer residence at Castel Gandolfo, near Rome.
"As I prepare to join them, I ask you to accompany us with your prayers for the spiritual fruitfulness of this important event", he said.
More than a million people are expected in Madrid from Tuesday for the youth event, with the pope due to arrive on Thursday.
The papal visit has drawn criticism over the costs of welcoming the head of the Roman Catholic Church as Spain battles with recession. WYD officials say that the majority of the costs will be paid by registration fees from pilgrims themselves.
A number of groups representing gays and lesbians and left-wing political parties also plan to protest the visit, the pope's second in a year after a visit to Barcelona and Santiago de Compostela in November.
Spain hosted the WYD once before in the northwestern city of Santiago de Compostela, a popular destination for pilgrims, in 1989.
© 2011 AFP