Between 18 and 21 August the Holy Father made an apostolic trip to Madrid, Spain, where he presided at the twenty-sixth World Youth Day. Arriving at theairport of Barajas, he was greeted by the king and queen of Spain as well as by Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, archbishop of Madrid, by Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and by other ecclesiastical and civil authorities.
In his remarks during the welcome ceremony, Benedict XVI said that he had come to Madrid "to motivate the commitment to build up the Kingdom of God in the world among us. ... The discovery of the living God inspires young people and opens their eyes to the challenges of the world in which they live. ... They know that, without God, it would be hard to confront these challenges and to be truly happy. ... World Youth Day brings us a message of hope like a pure and youthful breeze, with rejuvenating scents which fill us with confidence before the future of the Church and the world".
At 7.30 p.m. he went to Plaza de Cibeles where youth from all over the world were gathered. He greeted them in a number of languages, inviting them above all "to seek the Truth, which is not an idea or an ideology or a slogan, but a person: Christ".
On Friday 19 August, after celebrating Mass privately in the chapel of the apostolic nunciature, Benedict XVI paid a courtesy visit to the monarchs in the Palacio de la Zarzuela. He then went on to the basilica of San Lorenzo de El Escorial where he met with thousands of religious from various congregations, including contemplative orders. "Your lives", he told them, "must testify to the personal encounter with Christ which has nourished your consecration, and to all the transforming power of that encounter. This is all the more important today when we see a certain 'eclipse of God' taking place, a kind of amnesia which, albeit not an outright rejection of Christianity, is nonetheless a denial of the treasure of our faith".
At the basilica of San Lorenzo de El Escorial the Pope also had occasion to meet young academics who were participating in WYD. "The university has always been, and is always called to be, the 'house' where one seeks the truth proper to the human person", he told them. "Consequently it was not by accident that the Church promoted the universities. ... The university thus embodies an ideal which must not be attenuated or compromised, whether by ideologies closed to reasoned dialogue or by truckling to a purely utilitarian and economic conception". Catholic university professors must be "committed to teaching the faith and making it credible to human reason. And we do this not simply by our teaching, but by the way we live our faith and embody it. ... Young people need authentic teachers: persons open to the fullness of truth".
That evening, having met with Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, the Pope returned to Plaza de Cibeles where he presided at the Way of the Cross. After the ceremony he addressed the young people present, encouraging them to help the less fortunate. "You are open to the idea of sharing your lives with others, so be sure not to pass by on the other side in the face of human suffering, for it is here that God expects you to give of your very best: your capacity for love and compassion".
Benedict XVI began Saturday 20 August by hearing confession from a number of pilgrims in Madrid's Jardines del Buen Retiro. The Jardines were hosting the Festival of Forgiveness with more than 200 mobile confessionals in which priests from all over the world were hearing confession from young people.
At 10 a.m. that day the Holy Father presided at a Mass for seminarians in the cathedral of Santa Maria la Real de la Almudena. The years of preparation for the priesthood, said the Pope in his homily, "should be years of interior silence, of unceasing prayer, of constant study and of gradual insertion into the pastoral activity and structures of the Church. A Church which is community and institution, family and mission, the creation of Christ, ... as well as the result of those of us who shape it through our holiness and our sins. God, Who does not hesitate to make of the poor and of sinners His friends and instruments for the redemption of the human race, willed it so. ... We have to be saints so as not to create a contradiction between the sign that we are and the reality that we wish to signify".
That afternoon the Pope met with the WYD organising committees at the apostolic nunciature before going on to visit the Fundacion Instituto San Jose which serves people with physical and mental disabilities. "These witnesses", he said in his remarks, "speak to us, first and foremost, of the dignity of all human life, created in the image of God. No suffering can efface this divine image imprinted in the depths of our humanity".
At 8.30 p.m. Benedict XVI presided at a prayer vigil with young people at theairport of Cuatro Vientos. "Be afraid neither of the world, nor of the future, nor of your weakness", he told them. "The Lord has allowed you to live in this moment of history so that, by your faith, His name will continue to resound throughout the world".
On Sunday 21 August, the Holy Father presided at the closing Mass for World Youth Day. He invited young people to consolidate their faith and to place Christ at the centre of their lives, bearing witness to Him in all times and places.
Following an afternoon meeting with WYD volunteers, whom he thanked for their services, the Pope left Spain calling on young people to spread throughout the world the profound and joyful experience of faith they had had in Madrid.