WYD Begins with Street Protests

Arriving in a turbulent Madrid before another major tanking of global markets, Pope Benedict XVI shared some thoughts on the role of the economy, which he suggested could benefit from some sound investment in ethics futures. "The economy doesn't function with market self-regulation but needs an ethical reason to work for mankind," he said. "Man must be at the center of the economy, and the economy cannot be measured only by maximization of profit but rather according to the common good."

In an indication of how troubled the average Spaniard may feel before the continuing crisis in Spain and throughout the euro-zone, and perhaps an indication of how far esteem for the church has fallen in Europe, thousands gathered in Madrid's central Sol plaza to protest the cost of World Youth Day and apparently vent in general against the church. Unemployment in Spain is nearly 21 percent, the highest in the eurozone. Reuters captured some exceedingly unpleasant scenes on video and still photography as protestors confronted and taunted arriving pilgrims. They were later driven out of the plaza by police.

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The images suggest that Benedict is not wrong to view Spain as the frontline in the European culture war with "aggressive secularism." But even some priests of Madrid apparently view the costly WYD as tone-deaf during the current economic crisis (it is only fair to note the event was planned long before the Euro's fall from grace).

In a letter to Archbishop of Madrid Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, 120 signatory priests complained of WYD sponsorship deals between the church and "the worst collaborators" during a time of crisis which "has its origin in the banks' and large groups' uncontrolled desire for profits." The priests complained that WYD advertising and sponsorship arrangements only reinforced "the image of the church as a privileged institution, close to power, and the social scandal this implies, especially in the context of the economic crisis."

The priests wrote: "To trust in the strength of power and money ... is to give in to a temptation as old as the Church.... No one can serve two masters. You cannot serve both God and money."

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Bill Collier
6 years 2 months ago
Taunting nuns and kneeling WYD participants may be cathartic for some protesters, but in terms of getting one's message across through media images it's a strategy that backfires IMO.
Anne Chapman
6 years 2 months ago
Just for the record, Bill, read the range of news stories - sadly, the violence has been on both sides. Some WYD participants have attacked protesters (injuring many) and one pious young man was arrested by the police for planning a conspiracy to attack protesters with chemicals and gas. 

Perhaps the pope should put some money and actions behind his words - he laments the suffering due to the economy, calls on ''the rich'' to help the poor, yet seems happily oblivious of the message sent by his own lavish lifestyle. The $100 million euros (estimates vary) spent on this event could have been better spent elsewhere. He is a many of many words, but few actions. Until he begins to live what he preaches, few take him very seriously.

 Imagine the impact if the pope had announced that they were cancelling WYD this year and donating the $100 million euros that were raised for this event to the poor - maybe in Somalia, maybe in Spain, with its 21% unemployment rate (40% among young people) and urged others who could to follow this example.

Imagine.
Thomas Piatak
6 years 2 months ago
The protestors in Madrid are cut from the same cloth as the rioters in London.  But I fear the media will continue to give outsized attention to the malcontents.
6 years 2 months ago
Commonweal published a fine piece before WYD on the protestors.
They are not like the London rioters (a facile description) but are composed of many young of different poltical and religious persusaion.
Usually I'm simpatico with Bill Collier, but these protest both antedate and will probably postdate WYD.
It is important to note  that the protests are not only about unemployment but correuption in high places.
Itis further important to not that the Abp. of Madrid fobbed them off as godless.
A critical issue here for the church is how closely it is seen as tied to the (generally acknowledged) corrupt government.
In the meantime, a friend sent me an e-mail that he'd seen reports of a large group of Catholioc youth supporting the idea of condoms for AIDS persons, which they say they got from the Pope.
I think we need more extensive and accurate reporting from WYD so that our own oerspective might be more thoughtful.
Thomas Piatak
6 years 2 months ago
Mr. Nunz,

The current government in Spain is quite hostile to the Church.  The notion that the Church in Spain is closely tied to Zapatero's government is as fantastic as the notion that something worthwhile is being done by people who taunt nuns and jeer at praying pilgrims. 
Crystal Watson
6 years 2 months ago
As expected, I suppose, I agree with Anne and Robert.  Given Spain's past, the link between Franco and the Church, it's not surprising that many there are not religious or that they worry about the church's connections to money and power.  As with the pope's UK visit where money earmarked for foreign aid was instead spent on him, there will probably be a money shortfall in Spain after the pope's visit.  There was once a facebook petition going around where more than 40,000 people asked the Vatican to sell some of its treasures to give the money to the poor - the average person doesn't get the disconnect between the church's power/wealth and the gospel message - I'm one of them.
Bill Collier
6 years 2 months ago
Anne C. and Bob N.-

I'm not against protest by those upset about what appears to be several issues surrounding WYD. As long as the protest is peaceful, it doesn't matter to me if it involves those opposed to WYD or WYD participants protesting the protesters. Verbal taunts and shouting, though uncivil, usually fall under peaceful protest. My point was that the media images being beamed around the world of nuns and kneeling WYD participants being shouted at and taunted are unlikely to draw a lot of sympathy for the protesters from those who view the images.     
Thomas Piatak
6 years 2 months ago
Brett,

Thanks for posting that great video footage of the Pope and the pilgrims in Madrid.
Joshua DeCuir
6 years 2 months ago
The Spaniards' problem is one of their own making, not Pope Benedict's; for it is they who, no doubt in the name of the poor, have spent more than their government can afford to borrow.  Moreover, I'd like those castigating Pope Benedict for his "lavish" lifestyle (despite probably having very few financial assets personally) to explain to me how they would propose he liquidate priceless treasures such as the Sistine chapel, the Pieta, or Bernini's Columns so that he can shower the Euros on the poor.

Moreover, I'd be interested in their thoughts on the fact that, closer to home, our President, whom many here laud for his social justice agenda, is jetting from his tour of economic misery to a vacation at a $20 million home situated on 28 acres in Martha's Vineyard - which isn't exactly inner city Chicago.  I don't hear much criticism nor see much protest of this.
Crystal Watson
6 years 2 months ago
"I'd like those castigating Pope Benedict for his "lavish" lifestyle (despite probably having very few financial assets personally) to explain to me how they would propose he liquidate priceless treasures such as the Sistine chapel, the Pieta, or Bernini's Columns so that he can shower the Euros on the poor."

I suggest the Vatican Museum sell some of its art peices to other museums, and  I don't doubt there are countless ways in which money could be saved from Vatican expenditures.  There's no treasure more priceless than integrity.
Thomas Piatak
6 years 2 months ago
Mr. Landry,

There will be little criticism of Obama's travels, just as there are no petitions for the Metropolitan Museum of Art to sell what it has to give to the poor, for the same reason:  the perennial attack on the Vatican's supposed wealth is an anti-Catholic trope and little more.  Personally, I am glad to be able to see art that was created for the glory of God in a religious setting, and not reduced to the status of a curio in a secular museum. 
Crystal Watson
6 years 2 months ago
"art is precious as an artifact of man's longing for the divine and, in turn, the artists created beauty and genius glorifies God the creator."

Have you guys actually been to the Vatican Museum?  I have. Its collections contain more than Christian art - there's Greek art, Etruscan art, Egyptian art, Asian art, etc.  Art is a good thing - I majred in art at college and I've been to some wonderful museums, including the Louvre and the Uffizi - but no work of art is more valuable than a human life.  If Jesus had thought like you he wouldn't have told the rich young man to sell all his stuff and give the money to the poor, he would have told him to fund a museum.
Vince Killoran
6 years 2 months ago
What is the environmental effect of WYD?

BTW, neither the Pope nor Obama took vows of poverty but Benedict could lead by example.
Martin Gallagher
6 years 2 months ago
Won't Madrid benefit economically from the pilgrimage?  If a socialist country frowns upon WYD's "excesses," let's hold it in a struggling Northeastern or Midwestern US city in 2014.

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