Toronto Auxiliary Bishop William McGrattan reads the Pope's homily to Canadian pass-holding pilgrims who were denied entry to the Cuatro Vientos airbase for the World Youth Day closing Mass.

Locked out pilgrims make do with their own WYD closing Mass

  • August 22, 2011

MADRID, SPAIN - While 1.5 million pilgrims gathered at Cuatro Vientos airbase for the World Youth Day closing Mass, about 85 Canadian pass-holding pilgrims who were denied entry to the grounds because of overcrowding gathered in a hotel lobby to celebrate Mass and hear the words of Pope Benedict XVI.

With a BlackBerry in hand, Toronto Auxiliary Bishop William McGrattan read the Pope's homily before the Pope himself had read it to the crowd at Cuatro Vientos. Despite a rough night for many pilgrims who were shut out due to volume, spirits were high at the hotel Mass.

"Dear young friends, as the successor of Peter, let me urge you to strengthen the faith which has been handed down to us from the time of the Apostles," read Pope Benedict's homily. "Make Christ, the Son of God, the centre of your life."

The homily also strongly emphasized that following Jesus means "walking at His side in the communion of the Church."

"We cannot follow Jesus on our own," Pope Benedict said. "Anyone who would be tempted to do so on his own, or to approach the life of faith with the kind of individualism so prevalent today, will risk never truly encountering Jesus. Or will end up following a counterfeit Jesus."

Timothy Keslick, 18, a pilgrim from Aurora, Ont., said it was a beautiful sight to see so many people gathering to celebrate the joy of Christ despite the disappointment of not getting into Cuatro Vientos, the lack of sleep and the trek back to the hotel in the pouring rain.

{iframe width="100%" height="125px"}{/iframe}"We're still trying to have the best experience we can," he said. "We were able to come together and salvage what we could from the wreckage of yesterday."

Keslick said the Pope delivered a very important message in his homily when he said youth must not "let themselves be seduced by the empty promises of a lifestyle which has no room for God."

"He challenged us saying despite the many societal pressures that we face, we still have to search for Jesus," he said.

Laura Krakewski,17, said it was really special to hear the Pope's message before all the other pilgrims. "And even though it didn't come directly from his lips, I know it's from his heart and it's an honour to hear."

What struck a chord with Krakewski was the way Pope Benedict repeatedly stressed throughout the homily that Christ cannot be separated from the Church.

"Just from hearing his words, it made me realize how much faith he has in us," said Krakewski. "It was really nice to hear that he's keeping us in his prayers because I think in today's day and age, the youth are looked down upon."

For Veronica Padewski, a group chaperone for St. Stanislaus Kostka parish, she saw the journey of the Days in the Diocese in Cintruenigo, Spain, as putting the Pope's words in action.

"Do not keep Christ to yourselves," said Pope Benedict. "Share with others the joy of your faith. The world needs the witness of your faith, it surely needs God."

And that's what the group did in Cintruenigo, she said.

"We shared our faith and they told us that they were looking for something to spark their faith."

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