VATICAN CITY (EWTN News/CNA) — Pope Benedict XVI is eager to meet the vast crowds of young people who are gathering in Madrid and is looking forward to the “wonderfully spiritual” moments that will occur during the four-day international event.
“The Pope is very happy and very much looking forward to meeting a million young people next week,” said papal spokesman Father Federico Lombardi in Aug. 12 remarks to EWTN News.
“It will obviously be a very demanding trip for him because it is a four-day visit. But he knows from his previous World Youth Days in Cologne and Sydney that these are great occasions with great enthusiasm, and he wants to give young people a witness to faith and encouragement to live lives of hope and charity.”
Father Lombardi gave his final briefing in Rome Aug. 12 ahead of World Youth Day’s launch next Tuesday, Aug. 16.
Pope Benedict will arrive on the evening of Thursday, Aug. 18. He will then preside at a total of nine events with young people over the next four days, culminating in Sunday morning Mass at the city’s Cuatro Vientos airport.
Father Lombardi revealed that more than 800 bishops plan to attend that Mass.
“Obviously the Eucharist on Sunday is the most important moment of the four days for the Pope, but he’s also looking forward to other very significant moments that will be wonderfully spiritual occasions,” said Father Lombardi.
He highlighted the Pope’s leading of the Way of the Cross through the streets of Madrid on the Friday, prayed with “the intensity of the Spanish spiritual tradition,” as one such moment.
The spokesman also said the Pope is looking forward to meeting with several young people and giving them the sacrament of reconciliation at the city’s Jardines del Buen Retiro the next day.
“Also Mass with the seminarians on Saturday will be a wonderful reminder of the spirituality of the priesthood on, this, the 60th anniversary of the Pope’s ordination,” noted Father Lombardi. For Pope Benedict, celebrating “the Mass of Jesus Christ, eternal High Priest, will be great.”
Father Lombardi also explained that Pope John Paul II will be a significant figure at World Youth Day. The recently beatified Pontiff was declared one of the patrons of the event earlier this year. He confirmed that the event’s inaugural Mass on Tuesday evening will be the “Mass of Blessed Pope John Paul II.”
It was also confirmed Aug. 12 that the Pope will make time to visit King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia of Spain, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and opposition leader Mariano Rajoy.
Pope Benedict has also declared that pilgrims to World Youth Day in Madrid will be able to obtain a special indulgence while attending the event.
“We are very happy because the Holy Father reinforces with this decision the penitential meaning of World Youth Day in Madrid,” communications director Rafa Rubio told EWTN News on Aug. 11.
The indulgence will allow young people to draw closer to God and grow in their friendship with Christ, Rubio added.
An indulgence is the means by which the Catholic Church, with the authority of Jesus Christ, rescinds the temporal consequences of sins that have already been forgiven in confession.
Indulgences replaced the severe penances imposed in the early Church and can be either “plenary” or “partial,” which respectively rescind all or part of the punishment caused by sin.
The Pope’s intentions were announced Aug. 11 in a decree from the Apostolic Penitentiary in Rome, the Vatican body responsible for issues related to the forgiveness of sins.
The Penitentiary explained that the Latin-language edict “grants a plenary indulgence to the faithful who attend the occasion of ‘World Youth Day XXVI’ in Madrid in a spirit of pilgrimage.” A partial indulgence can also be gained by “everyone, wherever they are, who prays for the spiritual purpose of this meeting and for its happy outcome.”
In order to receive the plenary indulgence, it states that Madrid pilgrims must go to confession, receive holy Communion and pray for the intentions of Pope Benedict.
The partial indulgence is available to those “wherever they are” during the events if “with contrite hearts, they lift up their prayers to God the Holy Spirit, to the end that he might urge the young to charity and that he might give them the strength to announce the Gospel with their own lives.”
The decree also explains that the indulgences were requested by Cardinal Antonio Rouco Varela of Madrid, as he wanted “young people to receive the desired fruits of sanctification” from World Youth Day in his home city.
Finally, it asks that all priests in Madrid make themselves available as confessors for the young pilgrims.