Pope to make third visit to Spain in August
Pope Benedict XVI will make his third visit to Spain August 18-21 to preside over World Youth Day festivities expected to draw tens of thousands of pilgrims from around the world, organisers said Tuesday.
The pontiff will arrive in Madrid on the evening of August 18 and will lead a Way of the Cross procession the following day through the streets of the Spanish capital involving youth from 15 nations, World Youth Day director of ceremonies Javier Cremades told a news conference.
The 83-year-old pope will wrap up his visit on August 21 when he will celebrate a two-hour mass at an airfield just outside Madrid that Catholic Church officials expect will draw some two million pilgrims.
The World Youth Day festival, last held in Sydney in 2008, will take place in the Spanish capital on August 16-21.
The trip will make Spain the country that Benedict XVI has visited the most since becoming pontiff in what has been seen as a sign that he sees the once staunchly Roman Catholic country as a battleground for the future of the faith in Europe.
"I think he feels the visit will suit us very well, he feels Spain needs a deeper evangelisation," Cremades said when asked why the pope had decided to come to Spain again this year.
Benedict visited Spain in 2006, a year after he was elected pontiff, for a Church meeting on families in the eastern city of Valencia.
He returned in November 2010 for a two-day visit that included a stop in Barcelona to consecrate the famed Sagrada Familia basilica.
During his previous two visits the leader of the Roman Catholic Church railed against social reforms introduced by socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero such as same-sex marriage and easier access to abortion.
© 2011 AFP