Cardinal Antonio Ruoco, the archbishop of Madrid, said the missions begun by Spanish Franciscans link the people of Spain to those of the United States, and he is “delighted” with the turnout of U.S. pilgrims for World Youth Day.
Cardinal Ruoco, in what may be one the busiest days of his life, granted a brief interview to the Register as he prepared to open World Youth Day at a Mass for hundreds of thousands tonight in Plaza Cibeles, the major plaza in the center of Madrid. More than 4,000 members of the media sought press credentials for World Youth Day.
Cardinal Ruoco has been the archbishop of Madrid since 1996. He came to Spain’s capital from the Archdiocese of Santiago de Compostela, where, as archbishop, he was instrumental in organizing the World Youth Day there in 1989. He is 74 years old; he was ordained a priest in 1959 and a bishop in 1976.
The cardinal said he was “more than delighted with the large turnout of pilgrims from the United States of America, of which there are 25,000” officially registered and many more expected to be in Madrid before the week is over.
“There is such a long and warm relationship between the people of Spain and the United States that it is natural that the U.S. pilgrims will feel very at home here in Spain,” said the cardinal.
He added that “the people of Spain and of the United States are very close and share a long and great history, especially in the Catholic Church.”
The cardinal said he wanted to “welcome each of the U.S. students and young people who have arrived in Madrid for this great week: Bienvenidos a todos [Welcome to everyone].”
Citing the long history of “all the Franciscans and their missions in California and all the missionaries from Spain who helped start the Church in America,” Cardinal Ruoco said that this World Youth Day marks a new moment in the history of the Church in both countries.
Earlier in the day, he held a press conference along with the major organizers of World Youth Day. He said that they have tried to look after all the details of the coming week, both those large and small, to ensure a successful program. The whole goal of World Youth Day Madrid is to help the young people get to know the person of Christ.
The cardinal said that he and his committee have worked hard in the past three years, since Pope Benedict XVI announced his intention to hold World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid at the conclusion of World Youth Day 2008 in Sydney, Australia.
Cardinal Ruoco said he was very honored by the Pope’s selection of Madrid and looked forward to welcoming him on Thursday. The cardinal apologized in advance for any of the problems that pilgrims and the press are experiencing in the early days of the festival, but he predicted that it would be a great week and a great success for all involved.
Jesuit Father Matthew Gamber filed this report from Madrid.