In 1989, when he was a pastor in Santiago de Compostela, Monsignor Rouco Varela received Karol Wojtyla. When he got into the “Popemobile,” the pontiff’s secretary said to him: “But Excellency, you are a youngster.” At that time Rouco Varela was 53 years old.
Nearly 22 years later, as Archbishop of Madrid, the cardinal is about to receive Joseph Ratzinger and more than one million young people for the new event, which runs from August 16 to 21.
Vatican Insider put a few questions to him, and the Archbishop graciously replied.
How have WYDs changed between 1989 and 2011?
The event at Santiago de Compostela was practically the first World Youth Day ever held away from Rome. There we had the first WYD ministry. There were other questions about the event’s success. An event of this kind was not understood by large swathes of the Catholic Church, inside and outside of Spain.
Only 25 of the Spanish dioceses in Santiago participated, and not even one delegate from the Spanish Conference of Bishops was sent to the youth ministry.
The kind of relationship created between the Pope and young people has basically remained the same to this day. It has, in a certain sense, been enriching itself day by day.
Also, the youth from back then and the youth of today are really different. The kids of 1989 were the children of the ’68 revolutionaries, on a deep quest to seek out their lives, so much that it surprised the bishops, who didn’t believe that there were young people for whom the problem of faith was so important. We bishops were also from their parents’ generation, post-1968.
Today we are at a more mature phase of the World Youth Day celebrations. The organizational formula has not significantly changed since Santiago, but many things have changed in society.
The program has been expanded to include the Stations of the Cross and some other special events, and this year there will be two such events: a meeting with religious communities and a meeting with young university lecturers.
FULL STORY The Archbishop who organised two WYDs (Vatican Insider)