3,000 Irish to join 1.5 million faithful for World Youth Day
THOUSANDS of young Irish devotees will descend on Madrid for World Youth Day next week in a show of faith in the Catholic Church.
One-and-a-half million people have registered to attend next week's jamboree which will culminate in a Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI.
And hundreds of thousands of youngsters will camp out in sleeping bags on a disused air strip in the city as a show of religious solidarity.
"You will be exhilarated, you will be tired, you will be changed, you will be different by the time you come back," its organisers pledge.
Amongst the crowd will be an estimated 3,000 young Irish people.
"Being a young Catholic in Ireland is not the easiest thing; it's not really seen as being cool," said Ian Rogers (22) from Dublin who is preparing for his second trip to the event.
"There were so many bad decisions made (in relation to the abuse scandals).
"Hopefully people who are young and who have had all these things thrown at them can see that there is an ugly side to religion but then there is a beautiful side."
World Youth Day (WYD), which was started by Pope John Paul II in 1985, begins on Tuesday of next week and runs until Sunday.
Yesterday a number of pilgrims from the Catholic Youth Care (CYC) organisation were completing preparations at St Paul's Church on Arran Quay in Dublin.
The group, which will bring about 150 of its members to Spain, has been tasked with organising a series of catechesis discussion sessions on the role of religion with bishops from around the world.
The talks embrace a daily religious theme and feature question and answer sessions between the audience and the bishops, followed by a Mass.
WYD, which is celebrated in a different city every three years, also incorporates concerts, theatre and discussion groups, all exploring the relevance of religion.
Evangelisation officer Anna Keegan, one of the CYC's organisers and a veteran of four WYDs explained that the occasion is about a younger generation understanding their place in religion.
"We look at why we believe and why we stay connected; it's all geared towards young people," she said.
Orla Walshe (23) from Malahide in Dublin says young people need to be encouraged to call themselves Catholics "instead of drifting, which a lot of Catholics have done".