At least 30 Roman Catholic youths from the Archdiocese of Bulawayo will be part of over 100 young people that will represent Zimbabwe at the 26th edition of the World Youth Day (WYD) in Spain this month. 

In an interview with at his office, the Archbishop of Bulawayo Alex Thomas said the youths would be drawn from different parishes within the diocese. Founded by the late Pope John Paul II, the World Youth Day is celebrated after every three years. It brings together young people from across the globe for prayers, religious talks and Catholic teachings and to interact with the Pope. 

The week-long event will be held for the second time on the Spanish soil. This year it is hosted by the capital of Spain Madrid from 16 to 21 August. When  Spain served as the venue for the Catholic event for the first time it was in 1989 in Santiago de Compostela, the burial place of St James the apostle. The pilgrimage usually attracts more than half a million young believers from world over.

Commenting on the significance of the pilgrimage that will run under the theme Planted and built up in Jesus Christ; firm in the faith, Archbishop Thomas had this to say, “This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience when youths get to meet with others from all over the world and with the Pope himself, as they rejuvenate their faith.”

Coordinator of the trip at St. Mary’s Cathedral Youth office Sister Celestine Nyoni said youths who will have to part with over 2,000 USD will begin their journey on 8 August, taking a flight to Madrid through Johannesburg. Sr. Celestine ‘s group of five boys and four girls is one of the two groups from Bulawayo that will be travelling to the Spanish capital, with the other believed to be from St. Anthony’s Parish in Barham Green suburb.

 According to a circular from the Holy See, available at St. Mary’s Cathedral, registration with Madrid Diocese for youths intending to participate in the 26th edition of the WYD can either be done at individual or group level. “World Youth Day will be officially opened at the Opening Mass presided by Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, Archbishop of Madrid, on Tuesday 16 August 2011 in the evening. It will take place at the Plaza de Cibeles, a  city’s landmark,” reads the circular. Some of the activities lined up for the function include the traditional catechesis (17 to 19 August) with particular emphasis on the Sacrament of Reconciliation, given in different languages by bishops from all over the world in churches, schools, halls and sports arenas around Madrid. There will be a special place for the Eucharistic adoration at the Park of Forgiveness. The youth festival will showcase a number of activities that will allow young people to share their artistic, religious and spiritual experiences of faith and life. In the evening of 19 August (Friday), there will be a Way of the Cross in the Madrid city centre passing along the Paseo de Recoletos, starting from Plaza de Cibeles and finishing at Plaza de Colon. Vigil Mass with Pope Benedict XVI on Saturday night, 20 August, and the Papal Mass on Sunday morning, August 21, at Cuatro Vientos Airport in south-west Madrid will be the culmination of the WYD 2011. The Pope will then announce the venue for the next WYD before the faithful return to their respective countries.

Sr. Celestine, who led a delegation of youths from Bulawayo to Sydney, Australia in 2008, said they would be back in Bulawayo from Madrid on 23 August. Those who for various reasons cannot attend the event this year remain in hope to make it next time.