Alorcon City, August 16 – AN ESTIMATED three thousand Filipinos are joining one million people in the World Youth Day (WYD) celebrations in Madrid this week, with the international youth gathering drawing a record number of participants.

The festivities are marked by a renewed emphasis on the sacraments — participants are encouraged to go to confession and receive Holy Communion to complete their spiritual journey. The archbishop of Madrid has allowed WYD confessors to absolve the grave sin of abortion, which is widely available in increasingly secular Spain.

Pope Benedict XVI himself will hear confessions on Saturday, reaching out to young people in his campaign for the re-evangelization of Europe.

The Filipino pilgrims, who are being housed in schools, gyms, and arenas all over Madrid and neighboring cities, just received their official WYD backpack containing several materials, including the week’s schedule, which will culminate with the overnight vigil with the Pope at Cuatro Vientos Airspace on Aug. 20 and the Closing Mass early morning on Aug. 21.

Delegates have also received their official ID, a map of Madrid, the pilgrim’s guide, a bible, the youth catechism book “YouCat,” food stubs, transportation passes, and WYD memorabilia.

The 425 delegates of the Episcopal Commission on Youth of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (ECY-Philippines) left their host, the Diocese of Coria-Caceres, yesterday, to get to the Spanish capital.

The ECY-Philippines delegation is supposed to be housed in just one venue, but sudden changes made by the WYD organizers forced the group to split into two: one at the Polideportivos Canaleja and the other at Deportivos los Cantos in the city of Alcorcon.

“These changes are expected. Let’s just consider these deviations as part of our pilgrimage,” said Fr. Conegundo Garganta, leader of the ECY-Philippines delegation.

Although WYD organizers consider the ECY-Philippines as the official delegation of the Philippines, other groups are attending the WYD. For instance, students and alumni of the Pontifical University of Santo Tomas — which hosted the WYD in 1995 — have joined the delegation from the Archdiocese of Manila.

Another delegation from UST has joined a separate group, the Dominican Network of the Philippines, which will participate in the Dominican WYD to be held in between the activities of the official WYD. Kris Bayos


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