MADRID – Pope Benedict XVI yesterday celebrated the closing Mass of the World Youth Day festival in Spain. The Pope has returned to an air base just outside Madrid where he delivered a homily to a million-strong crowd on Saturday evening. After a scorching day, his speech was disrupted by a violent thunderstorm, according to BBC News.
World Youth Day is a Catholic event which has drawn hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from all over the world. While closing this year’s event, the Pope announced that the next World Youth Day will be hosted by Rio de Janeiro. The crowds of young people from around the globe erupted in cheers at the announcement, CNN said.
The Pope was due to return to the Vatican later Sunday, ending his four-day visit to Madrid. Thousands have protested what they said was the high cost of organizing the event this year in Madrid during Spain’s deep economic crisis, with nearly 21% unemployment and nearly 5 million people jobless. The World Youth Day organization said it was spending about USD 70 M on the event. Most of the money came from the pilgrims and sponsors, the organization said, insisting that it would not cost taxpayers anything. But critics said public funds would likely pay for the 10,000 police officers on duty, or the discounts on the Madrid metro for the visiting pilgrims.