Here are some video highlights from Aussie Pilgrimage, culminating at the WYD Stations of the Cross on 19 August, the Vigil with the Holy Father on 20 August, and the Final WYD Mass on 21 August 2011!
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Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims from every corner of the globe lined the streets of Madrid to welcome Pope Benedict XVI who arrived in Spain at noon on 18 August (8 pm AEST) for World Youth Day 2011.
After touching down at Madrid's Barajas Airport, the relaxed, smiling Holy Father made his way down the steps to the tarmac, where he was greeted by Spain's Papal Nuncio, His Most Reverend Eminence, Monsignor Renzo Fratini and the Spanish King and Queen.
King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia then led Pope Benedict XVI to a formal reception area at the airport where he met government officials and 2000 young pilgrims from different nations across the world. Although the numbers selected to attend the airport reception had to be restricted due to the size of the venue, many thousands of pilgrims were able to share in the event via large screens erected throughout the city, as well as via television and live webcasts on social networks.
"I have come here to meet thousands of young people from all over the world, Catholics committed to Christ, searching for the truth that will give real meaning to their existence," he said.
Speaking directly to the many hundreds of thousands watching him via the city's video and tv screens or via social networking sites, the Holy Father said he had come to Madrid as "the Successor of Peter, and to confirm them all in the faith, with days of intense pastoral activity, proclaiming that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life; to motivate the commitment to build up the Kingdom of God in the world among us; to exhort young people to know Christ personally as a friend, and so, rooted in his person, to become faithful followers and valiant witnesses."
Pope Benedict XVI also told the more than 1.5 million pilgrims who have gathered in Madrid for WYD11 that World Youth Day provided young people with the very special opportunity to gather together their inspirations, to share the richness of their cultures and experiences, to motivate each other along the journey of faith and life, in which some may think they are alone and ignored, but are not.
He said it gave him great joy to listen to young people, to pray with them and celebrate the Eucharist with them.
"World Youth Day brings us a message of hope like a pure youthful breeze, with rejuvenating scents which fill us with confidence before the future of the Church and of the world," he said.
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At noon on 16 August, 4000 young pilgrims from Australia joined the Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell for a very True Blue Aussie launch of World Youth Day 2011.
Also attending the Australian Gathering were 24 of Australia's Catholic bishops and more than 300 of our priests and seminarians who have also travelled to Spain for WYD11.
Held at Madrid's famous entertainment venue, the Palacio de Deportes de la Communidad stadium, the Australians marked their arrival in Spain for the week long event with a two hour celebration of music, song and prayer.
Kari Groenveveld from Brisbane and Jack O'Sullivan from Melbourne, two of the more than 1.5 million young people from every corner of the globe who are making a pilgrimage to Madrid for WYD11, acted as MCs at the all-Australian event, which also featured two of Australia's popular musicians, Gary Pinto and Father Robert Galea.
For many there, one of the highlights of the Gathering came when Fr Robert Galea performed the special tribute song he wrote in honour of Bishop Joe Grech of Sandhurst, who died suddenly late last year and is very much missed by all who knew him.
The two hour Australian Gathering included performances by a group of Indigenous dancers and musicians with a didgeridoo solo given by Robert Dann from the Broome Diocese.
Welcoming the young pilgrims to Madrid, Archbishop Philip Wilson, President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) urged them to take full advantage of the upcoming week of prayer and reflection.
Bishop Christopher Prowse, Bishop of Sale (Victoria) also spoke and told the joyful young Australians that it was "up to them to respond to the call of the Church in Australia."
During the two-hour Australian Gathering at the Palacio, testimonies from pilgrims were also heard. These including a moving account from Cheryl Fernandez, a member of the Archdiocese of Sydney's Catholic Youth Services and CYS co-ordinator for the Randwick-Botany Deanery.
Prior to arriving in Madrid, Cheryl had been on an unforgettable pilgrimage where she and other WYD young people had followed the pathways of the ancent prophets across Egypt and the Sinai Desert before entering the Holy Land to walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ.
She spoke in detail of the experience and also of climbing the rugged and extremely steep Mt Sinai in the early hours of the morning so she could join the other pilgrims and be at the summit as dawn broke across the desert. Admitting she was extremely nervous as she mounted a camel and was led with others also riding camels up the almost sheer slopes of the sacred Mountain, she said that her fears were calmed when the words of Christ came to her. "Do not be afraid," He said.
Cheryl exhorted all the other pilgrims present at the Australian Gathering to take every advantage of the upcoming week where they will have the opportunity to meet other young people from every corner of the globe and to deepen their faith through prayer and reflection.
As the almost 4000-strong group of Australians waved flags and joined in the singing, the euphoria and joy swept the entire auditorium.
The final blessing was given by the Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell who later described the Australian Gathering as "absolutely fantastic" and a "great mix of music, song and prayer."
The enthusiasm, pride of faith and joy felt by the pilgrims continued as they poured into Madrid's streets and prepared for the open air Mass in the Plaza de Celebes at 8 pm (4 am AEST) which was celebrated by the Archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, and marked the official opening of World Youth Day 2011.
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