ost Spaniards in Rome are rejoicing at the news that the next World Youth Day will be held in Madrid in 2011. If it will be anything like 2003, when 700,000 people came to see Pope John Paul II lead a youth rally in the city. the event promises to be a great success.
Few were surprised at the announcement: for the past year, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, the Archbishop of Madrid, has been openly campaigning to bring the event to Spain. Last September he presented his country's case with a large group of young people who met Pope Benedict XVI at Castel Gandolfo, the Pope's summer residence.
A major reason for the Spanish Church's enthusiasm to host the event is the political situation in the country. The recently re-elected socialist government of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatem has been pursuing policies radically at odds with Church teaching and has had frequent run-ins with the country's bishops. The Spanish hierarchy are therefore hoping this event will be an urgent and necessary counter-balance to the government's prevailing anti-clericalism.
But as negotiations with the Vatican took place, not everyone in Rome saw it that way. A few senior officials were reluctant to offer the event to the country, stressing that this will be the second time Pope Benedict will have visited Zapatero's Spain (his first visit was in 2006 when he attended the fifth World Meeting of the Family in Valencia). Far better, they believed. to host it in a more Church-friendly nation.
Cardinal Ruoco, however, is undaunted, and says there are two sides to the country: the "cold face" of officialdom. and the dynamic, open, cosmopolitan and "normal face" of the people. "I believe that there will be great warmth and a festive atmosphere, perhaps superior to that we have enjoyed here in Sydney." he said in an interview last week.
Still, financing the event could be a problem: this year's World Youth Day relied to a large extent on government assistance. The Spanish government is unlikely to be so generous, but as with all these events, a healthy trust in Providence is likely to win the day.
Aanfter the long trip to Australia, Pope Benedict XVI will no doubt be eagerly looking forward to his nual holiday. On Monday he leaves for BrixenBressanone in the north-eastern part of Italy where he will stay until August 11. It's a town he knows well. having regularly holidayed there for the past 40 years, but this will be his first time back since his election.
He will be lodging at Brixen's major seminary, the residence where, as cardinal. he would often spend his summers with his brother, Mgr Georg Ratzinger. The seminary is equipped with an impressive theology library, a large garden and, of course, a piano. While there, the Holy Father will make just two public appearances: on August 3 and August 10, when he will recite the Angelus in front of the town's cathedral. As with the Holy Father's previous holidays, much of his time is likely to be taken up studying and writing. Many speculate he will tie up some long-running concerns regarding his first social encyclical. and write the next volume of his book. Jesus of Nazareth.
It's not clear why, as Pope, Benedict XVI chose other places to holiday over the past three years in preference to his former holiday destination. But reports say that doctors advised him not to return to Lorenzo di Cadore, the northern Italian town where he stayed last year, because its high altitude was not good for his heart.
Brixen is located in the Trentino-Alto Adige region of northem Italy. close to the Austrian border. Nestled in a picturesque South Tyrolean valley and surrounded by distinctive Dolomite mountain peaks and lush green fields, the town has a fascinating fusion of Austro-Italian culture. Its known to the Italians as Bressanone. but 75 per cent of the town's 20,000 citizens are mother-tongue German speakers who refer to it by its German name. Its Germanic heritage goes back to 1815 when it was annexed by the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Brixen's citizens feel honoured and excited at the prospect of the Pope's return. Brigitte Saldner, the proprietor of the Green Tree hotel where the Ratzingers would sometimes stay, is hoping the Pope will call in for old time's sake. She says the hotel plans to give him a very warm welcome and hopes he will have time to enjoy what was his favourite dish: mountain cranberries and dumplings.
Rome Correspondent: Edward Pentin E-mail: [email protected]