Pope tells 1.5 million youngsters to spread gospel

Sun Aug 21, 2011 4:16pm EDT
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By Judy MacInnes and Sonya Dowsett

MADRID (Reuters) - Pope Benedict urged 1.5 million young Catholics at a Sunday mass in an aerodrome to spread the gospel to others on the last day of a four-day visit to the Spanish capital marked by violent protests.

Hundreds of Spaniards, including priests, took to the streets earlier in the week to object to the cost of hosting a private religious event at a time of spending cuts. A march ended in clashes with police on Wednesday night.

The pope told pilgrims from 193 countries on Sunday that they have been given the extraordinary task of being missionaries of Christ in other countries filled with young people looking for better values.

"We cannot encounter Christ and not want to make him known to others. So do not keep Christ to yourselves! Share with others the joy of your faith," he said in a sermon read from a white throne under a stylized golden tree.

Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims, bearing flags from their countries and wearing hats to protect themselves from the sun, prayed, applauded and cheered during the service.

A choir and orchestra dressed in blue and adorned with white lilies accompanied the mass, while Spain's King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia looked on.

"When you're at home, you just think you're alone in your faith, but when you pray with over a million people it just changes things," said Katharina Eisen, 18, from Germany.

PRAYER VIGIL   Continued...

<p>Pope Benedict XVI (R) leads a mass at the Cuatro Vientos aerodrome as part of World Youth Day festivities in Madrid August 21, 2011. REUTERS/Susana Vera</p>