Rain storms fail to douse fervour of young pilgrims

21st August 2011, Comments 1 comment

"Long Live the Pope!" Despite exhaustion from hours of blistering heat that was followed by a violent storm in the evening, more than one million pilgrims hailed Benedict XVI on his arrival for a closing of the Catholic youth festival on Sunday morning.

Their night under the stars was short, in tough conditions at the Cuatro Vientos military aerodrome, eight kilometres (five miles) from Madrid, from where many of the pilgrims had walked under a burning August sun the previous day.

The rain from the powerful storm which ruffled the pope on Saturday night and forced him to cut short his speech, was quickly absorbed into the dusty ground.

And even if the organisers of the World Youth Day celebrations knew beforehand that the weather forecast was bad, many pilgrims interpreted it as a sign of divine intervention.

"The rain was a blessing. It made us laugh. We were so hot," said Ryoko Hasunuma, a nun who come from Japan with a group of about 300 pilgrims.

Like hundreds of others, she spent the night outdoors in alleyways intended as emergency exits. While in the main zones of the esplanade -- the size of 48 football pitches -- most pilgrims were packed in close to each other in their sleeping bags.

Even in the zones near the 200-metre (660-foot) altar, there was not enough space and some pilgrims bedded down close to a chapel which had weathered the storm.

During the night, young people who wanted to gather there had to step over those sleeping.

"Look at that! It looks like a refugee camp," said one of the volunteers, who had treated dozens of victims of the heat on Saturday.

"What happened last night was madness. The alleyways were full and the ambulances couldn't pass," said the volunteer, who asked not to be identified.

At one point during the morning, organisers issued appeals over loudspeakers to "remain within your (assigned) zone."

"We had orders not to evacuate people who had fainted to the health centres at the camp, because there were too many people already there!" said one of his colleagues.

Many were unable to the leave the base Saturday night because of the crush of people.

"We were stuck outside," said Maria del Cacho, a 19-year-old student, "People were getting irritable, but the organisers would not let us pass until after the pope left."

The organisers decided to enlarge the area reserved for the pilgrims on Sunday, estimating that there would be 1.5 million people for the mass, as many Spanish people who were not registered came to join the ceremonies at the last minute.

Some volunteers stayed up the whole night. At about 3am, they distributed vestments for the clerics at Sunday's mass celebrated by the pope to close the August 16-21 festival.

"There are 15,000 vestments. They are new but they are not just for this occasion. The bishops and priests want to keep them. But there are still some left, and they will be distributed to parishes in poor countries," said one of the organisers, well aware that the cost of the festivities had caused much criticism amid economic hardship in Spain.


© 2011 AFP

1 Comment To This Article

  • Katie Murphy posted:

    on 21st August 2011, 21:48:47 - Reply

    the last gasp of a dying church. The church which sided with the Nazis during the spanish civil war, 1936-1939. Tens of thousands murdered with church moral support to give / keep the fascist dictator Franco in power

    tjhe same church which has all over the world been found guilty of endless hidden molestation of children. Criminal priests simply moved to new locations where unknown they kept the collection plates full while abusing your children.

    And of course the pope goes to Spain and then argentina. He hates the idea of gays having equal civil marriage rights, first blossoming in Spain and argentina as catholic countries. And of course all over the westernized world.

    By the church's admission only 13% of catholics in spain attend church anymore. In France, its 15% per the church's admission on Catholic TV station EWTN in the USA

    the same pope who was born and learned his early lessons in Germany in the 1930s. A country ruled by a still unexcommunicated catholic despite 55 million murders beffore the war and holocaust was ended. While the church still talks about protecting life, a smokescreen for its own crimes.

    And of course many dont realize that in addition to the Jews, all the gays the germans could find, as well as millions of slaves were sent to the ovens

    WWW.NOBELIIEFS.COM/NAZIS.HTM

    ABOUT 80 PICTURES WILL SHOW YOU ALL YOU NEED TO KNOW TO UNDERSTAND THE CHURCH'S SUPPORT FOR THE FACISTS IN GERMANY .

    BEWARE OF THE CHURCH AND WHAT COULD WELL BECOME A NEW ANYTHING BUT HOLY Second iNQUISITION. WHICH OPERATED IN SPAIN UNTIL THE 1830S