19 AUGUST 2011

As he departed for Madrid to attend World Youth Day today, Cardinal Seán Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All-Ireland, recalled the hope he experienced at previous World Youth Days and expressed a hope that pilgrims, following in the footsteps of their ancestors who left on pilgrimages to Spain, would bring hope and help to their compatriots in difficult times.

Cardinal Brady said: “As I leave for Madrid, Spain for the World Youth Day Pilgrimage, I think of other pilgrims and other times.  St James’ Gate, Dublin is named after the point of departure, for centuries, of pilgrims to the Shrine of St James in Compostela in Northern Spain.  I think of many other pilgrims who left in by-gone days to be educated in Spain, when they could not do so at home.   They came back to give hope and help to their compatriots in difficult times.  Hopefully today’s young pilgrims will do likewise.

“I recall vividly the moment three years ago the cheers and shouts of gladness, when Pope Benedict announced in Sydney that the next World Youth Day would be Madrid in 2011. The experience of meeting millions of young people at previous World Youth Days in Sydney, Paris and Rome has given me immense hope as I face the challenges of a world where religion is so marginalised and ridiculed and caricatured.

“I hope Madrid will do likewise.  I know it will and that is why I am looking forward to going.  This time I imagine Pope Benedict will once again challenge his listeners in Madrid with a message that has pervaded all of his theology – the message of joy.  In Cologne in August 2005 Pope Benedict told the young people, “The encounter with Jesus Christ will allow you to experience in your hearts the joy of his living and life-giving presence and enable you to bear witness to it before others.”

“At a World Youth Day that has as its theme, ‘Planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith’ (cf. Col 2:7), the Pope’s message is not likely to be any different.

“The living and life-giving presence of Jesus is not confined to Madrid!”

World Youth Day – a true celebration
Father Brian White, chairperson of the Armagh Diocesan Youth Commission and a curate in Blackrock, Co Louth is travelling to Madrid as part of the Armagh Diocesan pilgrimage.  Before leaving for Madrid he said that the pilgrimage is crucial to both the young people who will undergo this life-changing experience and the suffering wounded Church in Ireland that awaits them at home.

Father Brian said: “The 2011 World Youth day message “Planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith” (cf. Col 2:7) carries a very strong and personal message for the young people of the Church in Ireland.  At a time when the Church in Ireland is under constant scrutiny and attack, thousands of young people have emerged from darkness to stand up and be counted, joining with millions of others worldwide to celebrate their faith.

“On their pilgrim journey they are celebrating the joy of receiving the good news call of living their lives in Jesus Christ.  The pilgrimage is crucial to both the young people who will undergo this life-changing experience and the suffering wounded Church in Ireland that awaits them at home.

“These young people will have the opportunity to come to know in a deeper way the Joy of their faith and witness how this Joy is shared with millions worldwide.  It is this Good News message with which they will return home, that will be a source of hope and healing for the future of our Church. It is no secret that the Church in Ireland seeks renewal. These young people are the renewal, they are the future of the Church and through pilgrimage with the two million strong travelling to Madrid they will receive the renewal of Christ that many search for, and return home with a message of hope firm in the faith.

“Gilbert Rice from Armagh is one such person. Gilbert attended the last World Youth Day in Sydney and is going back this year as a leader.  Reflecting on what World Youth Day meant in his life, Gilbert said: ‘It was at World Youth Day that I found and took ownership of my faith as a young adult.  My life hasn’t been the same since that experience.  To celebrate being a Catholic with a million other young people who gathered with great joy and happiness, gave me confidence to allow my faith to be a big part of who I am as a person.’

A sense of anticipation
“After a Mass of sending the week before their departure a strong sense of excitement and anticipation rapidly surged amongst the young pilgrims of the Archdiocese of Armagh. For almost a year the 131 young people who are travelling to Madrid as part of the Armagh Diocesan pilgrimage have been preparing both spiritually and in a more practical manner to join with millions from around the globe, with the help of their families, schools and parishes.  Through regular meetings and retreats together the seeds of new friendships across the diocese have been sown and what were once many small cluster groups has now blossomed into a powerfully energetic diocesan group representing the Archdiocese with an enthusiastic and joyful voice.  From those who have travelled to World Youth Day before the other first-time pilgrims have heard of life changing stories and the celebration of faith in a way they have never before experienced.

“At this time in Ireland the words ‘celebration’ and ‘faith’ so rarely appear together.  The young pilgrims are eagerly awaiting the chance to experience their faith with a strong sense of elation. They talk excitedly of the many other new experiences awaiting them, the cultural exchange with our brothers and sisters in Barcelona, the Mass at the ancient Montserrat monastery, meeting nations from every corner of the world and allowing new friendships to grow over the ten-day period.  For many it is a strong sense of hope for which they are searching.  This hope can be found in Blessed John Paul II’s address to the young people of Ireland in 1979, ‘I believe in the youth of Ireland… you will be the living force of your country you will decide what Ireland will be… tomorrow, Ireland will depend on you.’

“This message still resounds in the heart of our youth and it is the nourishment of this message which the young people long for the most.”