Spain Readies for Arrival of 1.5 Million Youth


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ROME, JUNE 10, 2009 ( The Spanish ambassador to the Holy See, Francisco Vázquez Vázquez, reported that the country's government is actively supporting the organizational effort of the World Youth Day scheduled for August 2011.

In a press conference Tuesday at the embassy, Vázquez noted that the government led by Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero has begun to mobilize for the event that will draw worldwide youth to Madrid.

The ambassador reported that last week there was an organizational meeting between the Spanish vice president, María Teresa Fernández de la Vega, and the archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela.

Vázquez, former senator and president of the Spanish Federation of Municipals and Provinces, explained that the Spanish government named a representative for the coordination of the event's organizational aspects.

He noted that the country is planning for the participation of 1.5 million young people from all continents, which, he said, gives the youth day more than just a spiritual significance.

The ambassador affirmed that certain differences between Zapatero's government and the leaders of the Catholic Church, such as the current debate over abortion, should not affect the organization of this event. He also noted that the youth day will be preceded by several other gatherings of young people in different Spanish dioceses.

"It will be very important," he stated.

Vázquez, who has been the ambassador to the Holy See for three years, is currently overseeing the collection of useful information about previous youth days.

He expressed a speculation that "the Pope may travel to Santiago de Compostela," a popular European pilgrimage site, on this visit, given that the Pontiff "is a great Europeanist."

He explained that Benedict XVI had personally expressed the desire to visit the tomb of the Apostle, St. James, when the ambassador met him in audience.