Lifestyle & Belief

Thousands of pilgrims welcome pope at Youth Day mass in Spain (VIDEO)


Pope Benedict XVI waves to faithful as he leaves the Almudena Cathedral in his popemobile after celebrating a mass during the World Youth Day festivities in Madrid.


Jorge Guerrero

Thousands of pilgrims crowded the square in front of Madrid's Almudena Cathedral on Saturday as Pope Benedict XVI held mass on the final weekend of Catholic World Youth Day celebrations.

The 84-year-old pontiff greeted the ecstatic crowd from the popemobile as he rode through the streets to the 19th-century cathedral, where he celebrated mass for young people preparing to join the priesthood, AFP reported.

He earlier heard confessions from four young pilgrims in Madrid's city-center Retiro park, and later Saturday he is expected to hold a "Prayer Vigil" at an airbase outside the capital.

(Earlier on GlobalPost: Pope arrives in Spain amid protests)

The papal visit has been marred by protests over the $73-million cost of the youth celebrations at a time of economic uncertainty, spending cuts and youth unemployment rates of 45 percent.

Thousands of demonstrators rallied in downtown Madrid on Friday, a third night of protests, and a heavy police presence was on hand Saturday to prevent activists from reaching Madrid's central Puerta del Sol square.

The BBC reported that as many as a million pilgrims from around the world have come to Madrid for the Youth Day events.