SYMBOLIC STEPS: SUPREME PASTOR OF THE CHURCH IN MADRID

By Inma Álvarez

MADRID, Spain, AUG. 19, 2011 (Zenit.org).- A smiling, waving Benedict XVI entered Madrid on Thursday amid the cheers of thousands of youth and cries of “welcome,” as he stepped through the Alcala Gate, one of the great symbols of the WYD host city.For the leader of the universal Church, the steps were charged with meaning.

Alcala Street for centuries was a drover’s road, meaning countless shepherds have walked along it, guiding their large flocks of sheep.

The symbolic entry to the World Youth Day host city echoed Benedict XVI’s arrival to previous WYD venues: his arrival by ship in Cologne for WYD 2005, and his arrival at the Barangaroo pier in Sydney.

It was also a reminder of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, when Blessed John Paul II crossed the Tor Vergata Gate accompanied by young people.

In Benedict XVI’s first meeting with the youth of the 26th WYD — some 600,000 of them crowded into the city center — the welcome ceremony had a marked Spanish flavor, including flamenco costumes and street bands.

There was an exhibition of Andalusian race horses. And upon his arrival to the platform of Cibeles Square a few minutes later, the Pontiff was greeted by youngsters dressed in costumes typical of Spain.

This third WYD of Benedict XVI’s pontificate is already characterized by Mediterranean warmth, festivity and color.

The Holy Father’s first message was in the same vein, as he affirmed: “Through your presence and your participation in these celebrations, the name of Christ will echo throughout this great City.

“In fact, the words “happiness” and “joy” were the ones most frequently used by the Pontiff, on addressing the hundreds of thousands of young people in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Polish.

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