Catholic youths brave heat with alcohol-free beer, fans

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To combat Madrid's brutal summer heat, each of the registered pilgrims for the Catholic youth festival will get alcohol-free beer, a sunhat and a fan -- along with a crucifix for "spiritual ills."

Some 450,000 faithful from across the world are registered for the World Youth Day, which lasts from Tuesday to Sunday, although more than twice that number are expected.

In exchange for their registration fee of between 30 and 210 euros ($43 and $300), each receives a backpack containing a floppy hat, a T-shirt, a hand-held fan, a bottle of alcohol-free beer supplied by one of the sponsors, all with the WYD motif and in the red, orange and yellow colours of the festival.

The items are aimed helping the pilgrims over the many kilometres (miiles) they may have to travel to take part in the various events, in temperatures expected to soar to 35 C (95 F).

In addition to a special pilgrims' pass for access to the events, they also receive a metro ticket valid for three or seven days, a 288-page guide to the festival events, which include 300 concerts exhibitions and other activities, and a map of the city.

For spiritual guidance, they will have The Gospel According to St Matthew and the YouCat, or Youth Catechism of the Catholic Church.

The backpack also includes a crucifix "to heal all spiritual ills, the result of personal sins," said Cristina del Campo, one of the organisers.

She said the items were the result of a poll on Facebook to find out the top 10 articles the pilgrims would like to receive.

© 2011 AFP

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