For participants in Madrid's World Youth Day, this week has been one of a series of hot days of waiting in line to take part in the different cultural programs, including movies, classical and modern music, and art exhibitions.
Residents of Madrid noted that the streets have been flooded with an endless rivers of young people dressed in bright-colored T-shirts, with caps and flags, singing in loud voices and greeting one another with an "hola" with many different accents.
And then there are the flags -- the flags of Malaysia, Brazil, Colombia, Australia, France, Italy, the United States and especially Spain, as well as the WYD flags that decorate the streets, the lampposts, facades and Metro posters.
After attending catecheses in different languages, held in the mornings in several churches and pastoral centers of Madrid, most of the young people hastened to Madrid's "Retiro" park to participate in the Celebration of Forgiveness.
Beginning Wednesday and until next Saturday at noon, more than 200 confessionals set up ad hoc in a reserved enclosure of the park, are receiving an endless line of young people going to confession to priests in different languages.
However, it is not just young people who are taking part in this event. It is not unusual to see elderly persons, families who join, attracted by the joy and color seen on the streets for the past two days. Some elderly women pause to speak with the young people, they ask where they come from. A crippled old lady joined a Vietnamese group from the United States in the parish of St. Francis the Great: "I don't understand them but it's wonderful to see them," she said to anyone who was listening.
Several elements attract the young people -- the fountains, the lake and the shade of the trees of Retiro -- in an attempt to cope with the intense heat.
Another popular place is the tent of Eucharistic Adoration, open day and night since midday on Tuesday until the closure of the young people's world meeting. There is also a constant stream of youngsters in the stands of the Vocational Fair, where they pause to speak with nuns and missionaries of the different Congregations present. "Many come to our stands asking if they can register as volunteers for the missions in summer," reported the Pontifical Missionary Works.
The different activities of the cultural program also began today, a program planned as a means to diffuse Christian culture in its varied expressions. In addition to guided tours of the Prado Museum and other museums of art, several churches have set up historical exhibitions on the important religious families of the Church.
An exhibition has also been organized on Gaudi's Holy Family, as well as another on contemporary art organized by the Pons Foundation, and yet another on John Paul II's Theology of the Body. There is an exhibition on persecuted Christians and another on the young missionaries that Spain has scattered around the world.
Moreover, in Fuencarral, Madrid's "avenue of the movies," several films of a Christian content were being projected today, among them "The Human Experience," "Mother Teresa" and "You Will Meet Dragons," -- a successful experience as the rooms were filled to capacity.
A protest march against the Pope in the center of the city, with some 2,000 adherents, caused some tension when coming across the young pilgrims. In some cases, the police had to intervene, barring access to the Puerta del Sol.
A Mexican volunteer was also detained, who was planning an attack against the protesters.
However, the majority of interventions of the security forces were to give guidance and to control the flow of pilgrims in the midst of the urban traffic, as well as to guard access to buildings to avoid crowding.
In statements to the Spanish press, the person in charge of the police deployment in the city described Wednesday as "calm" and "without incidents."