Hundreds of thousands of Catholic youth from around the world have gathered in Spain's capital this week not simply to meet other like-minded young people, or even to see the Pope, but because they wish to hear the word of God, says Benedict XVI.
The Pope said this today during the welcome ceremony, held at the State Pavilion of the Madrid-Barajas Airport, which took place on the first day of his four-day trip to Spain.
King Juan Carlos I of Spain, and his wife, Queen Sofia, were on hand to greet the Pope, as were Cardinal Antonio Rouco Varela, the archbishop of Madrid and the president of the Spanish Episcopal Conference, and Spanish President José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.
The Holy Father is visiting the capital of Spain to participate in the 2011 World Youth Day, which is under way through Sunday.
"Why has this multitude of young people come to Madrid?" the Holy Father asked. "While they themselves should give the reply, it may be supposed that they wish to hear the word of God, as the motto for this World Youth Day proposed to them, in such a way that, rooted and built upon Christ, they may manifest the strength of their faith."
"Many of them have heard the voice of God, perhaps only as a little whisper, which has led them to search for him more diligently and to share with others the experience of the force which he has in their lives," he continued. "The discovery of the living God inspires young people and opens their eyes to the challenges of the world in which they live, with its possibilities and limitations.
"They see the prevailing superficiality, consumerism and hedonism, the widespread banalization of sexuality, the lack of solidarity, the corruption. They know that, without God, it would be hard to confront these challenges and to be truly happy, and thus pouring out their enthusiasm in the attainment of an authentic life."
The Pontiff said that "with God beside them," young people will "possess light to walk by and reasons to hope, unrestrained before their highest ideals, which will motivate their generous commitment to build a society where human dignity and true brotherhood are respected."
World Youth Day, Benedict XVI said, is a "special opportunity to gather together their aspirations, to share the richness of their cultures and experiences, motivate each other along a journey of faith and life, in which some think they are alone or ignored in their daily existence."
He stressed that faith-filled youth "are not alone," and that "many people of the same age have the same aspirations and, entrusting themselves completely to Christ, know that they really have a future before them and are not afraid of the decisive commitments which fulfill their entire lives."
"That is why it gives me great joy to listen to them, pray with them and celebrate the Eucharist with them," the Pope continued. "World Youth Day brings us a message of hope like a pure and youthful breeze, with rejuvenating scents which fill us with confidence before the future of the Church and the world."
"Of course, there is no lack of difficulties," he said. "There are tensions and ongoing conflicts all over the world, even to the shedding of blood."
"But, with all my heart," the Pontiff affirmed, "I say again to you young people: let nothing and no one take away your peace; do not be ashamed of the Lord. He did not spare himself in becoming one like us and in experiencing our anguish so as to lift it up to God, and in this way he saved us."
King Juan Carlos I greeted Benedict XVI during the ceremony, expressing the appreciation of Spain for his frequent visits to the country. The Pope has traveled to Spain three times since the beginning of his Pontificate.
"We see this as a special distinction for our country, which we greatly esteem and appreciate," the King stated.
He continued: "Hundreds of thousands of young men and women from the different parts of Spain and the four corners of the Earth eagerly await you to hold the Twenty-Sixth World Youth Day and to receive your message in all its profundity.
"All of those who have come to Madrid await your teachings of peace, charity and justice to shape their lives, successfully face today’s challenges and build a better society."
"These are not easy times for young people," King Juan Carlos I noted, "so often frustrated by the lack of personal horizons and jobs at the same time as they rebel against the grave problems that burden humanity and today's world."
He said that a "a profound crisis of values can be felt," and that youth need "not only opportunity, but an example from the older generation."
"We cannot afford to disappoint young people in their legitimate desire to make their dreams a reality," the king continued. "Their aspirations and problems must be our first priority. It is their future, but it is also the future of society as a whole.
"Now is the time to redouble our support, to provide young people with all possible resources to help them make their way, to put an end to the disgrace of youth unemployment, and to encourage young people to take up the torch of the values that make humanity great."
He added: "We trust in your inspiration, Holy Father, not only to encourage the youth of Spain and of the whole world to go on growing in values, but also to make our societies more sensitive to the need to support young people's projects and hopes."