Benedict tells youth to spread word
Riots and rain fail to dampen Pope's visit
The Pope was 'very favourably impressed by the endurance of young people and their prayers'
POPE Benedict XVI urged a crowd of nearly two million young Catholics to become missionaries for the faith yesterday as he celebrated an open-air mass to conclude World Youth Day in Madrid.
The pontiff addressed the pilgrims gathered at an airfield to the south of the capital telling them to avoid "the fashion of individualism" and not to keep their faith private but to participate in church life and share the faith.
"We cannot follow Jesus on our own," the 84-year-old pontiff said. "So do not keep Christ to yourselves! Share with others the joy of your faith."
The evening before, a torrential downpour had forced the Pope to cut short a speech defending traditional marriage and the right to life -- a clear condemnation of Spain's sweeping liberal reforms allowing same-sex marriages, easing divorces and introducing abortion on demand.
Electrical storms brought fierce winds and sheets of heavy rain, drenching pilgrims camping out at an airfield the size of 48 football pitches.
Many pilgrims could not receive Holy Communion because temporary chapels had been blown over in the strong gusts, and stores of sacrament wafers damaged by the elements.
Seven people were injured, including one person who broke a leg, when tents blew over. Earlier in the day, hundreds of pilgrims were treated for heat exhaustion as temperatures soared to above 40 degrees.
Health services said they had treated more than 2,600 pilgrims. Police estimated the crowd at the airfield to be around 1.5 million, but organisers believed it to be closer to two million. The Vatican said they had been prepared for inclement weather and were determined not to abandon celebrations because of it.
"The storm was a parable of Christian life in which moments of difficulty are overcome by the strength of faith," Federico Lombardi, the Holy See's spokesman, said.
The four-day papal visit had gone smoothly, he said, with the Pope "very favourably impressed by the endurance of young people and their prayers", despite being marred by violent protests against the visit.
At the end of Sunday's Mass, Benedict officially announced that the next World Youth Day will take place in Rio in 2013 -- a year early, to avoid conflicts with the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Brazilians in the crowd jumped, whooped and cheered at the announcement.
"I think this is great for Brazil and its youth because it's a very Catholic country," said Brazilian pilgrim Rogerio Moreira (35).
At a wrap-up briefing, Fr Lombardi said the pope was pleased with the event despite the storm.
"Life is made up of unforeseen things and not just following a programme that is carried out perfectly," Fr Lombardi said.
The pope's decision to stick out the storm "I think was a beautiful demonstration of patience and commitment to carry forward his witness". (© Daily Telegraph, London)