This last day of the formal celebrations of World Youth Day started very very early for this pilgrim. The alarm sounded at 0430 and it felt like I had only just drifted off to sleep. But I was up much easier on this day than I would be on any other occasion when my alarm sounded at such a time. I showered and changed into the one and only clerical shirt that I had brought with me from Australia, and which I might add had not seen the light of day since I arrived in Spain, and sallied forth to Cuatro Vientros for the final Mass of this World Youth Day celebration.
The part of my psyche that is priest, if I can separate that off for a second, had been looking forward to concelebrating this Papal Mass since I first found out that I would be accompanying the diocesan pilgrimage to Spain and to World Youth Day. Imagine my great disappointment to arrive at the appointed place well before the appointed time and to be told that that my accreditation as priest was invalid, and that I would have to present my ‘celebret’ (which I had left at the residence thinking I wouldn’t need it) and ‘re-register’ if I wanted to concelebrate. Since this was not possible, I decided to make my way to where the group was located so I could share the experience with them.
Imagine my further shock, disappointment and growing anger when I was denied entrance to the allocated seating area, even though I had the necessary registration hanging around my neck, because the area was “over-filled”. It would appear that this morning you didn’t need to have pre-registered for the event – or registered at all for that matter – in order to gain access to the main site. Why? Because no one, neither volunteer or official, was checking registration passes before letting people in. Anyone, absolutely anyone, could just wander on in. And they did, in their thousands. In a remarkable display of Spanish inefficiency those who had registered to attend the Papal Mass were turned away, usurped by people who had not attended any other function or event during the last week, but thought it okay to turn up today and participate in the ultimate act of this World Youth Day. And they were abetted in their endeavour by local organizers who seemed to just turn a blind eye. It has left a very bad taste in my mouth.
The Mass itself, which I managed to watch via webcast, was your typical fare for a Papal Mass. It was a cross between liturgy and theatre, largely because of the numbers present and the setting in which it took place. There was nothing particularly significant about the Mass that would require any further comment from me, particularly since I could only comment as an observer and not as a participant in any capacity.
And so with this entry I bring my daily coverage of World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid to a close. I am sure that there will be further things to say by way of reflection, but for now, my daily coverage comes to an end. An event, a journey that promised so much as we embarked, has finished, at least for me, with a whimper rather than a bang.