From attending World Youth Day to organizing it: one priest's surprising journey

As plans ramp up for this month’s World Youth Day in Madrid, L’Osservatore Romano interviews the newly appointed monsignor in charge — and finds he’s no stranger to the event.

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When in August, 1989 he found himself immersed in a sea of young people rhythmically chanting their love for John Paul II during the World Youth Day in Santiago de Compostela, twenty-six year old Miguel Delgado Galindo – with a brilliant legal career in front of him– never could have imagined that one day he would be on the other side of the stage, amongst the officials of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, as undersecretary. On June 18, Benedict XVI promoted the Catalan priest from office manager of the dicastery, where he had been responsible for the section of associations and movements. In this interview, he talks to us about his new role.

What was your reaction to the news of your nomination by Benedict XVI, only two months before the beginning of WYD in Madrid?

It was a normal change for this role, given the fact that Professor Guzman M. Carriquiry was nominated to Secretary of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America in May. It is only a happy coincidence that my nomination coincides with the upcoming World Youth Day in Madrid. When I learned that the Holy Father wanted to entrust the job to me, I felt a great sense of gratitude for his faith in me, which I hope to be worthy of, as well as a sense of gratitude towards my superiors at the Pontifical Council for the Laity. Now, a young person from the World Youth Day in Santiago di Compostela will go to Madrid to participate at the second WYD in Spain, but this time in a role that he could never have imagined twenty-two years ago, when he met John Paul II on the Monte del Gozo with thousands of young people from all over the world.

A young person from the Compostelana WYD who now has the responsibility for organizing WYD Madrid. What has been and what will be your role?

It will be to help my superiors – Cardinal President Stanislaw Rylko and Bishop Secretary Josef Clemens – in the different areas of competence for which they are responsible. My experiences up until now will help me: for example, the fact that I have a direct experience of WYD will allow me to treat these themes more competently.

On this topic, there are those who say that these gatherings of young people are used only as an anonymous mass to draw more attention to the show…

Whoever is familiar with WYD knows that it is a stupendous occasion for evangelizing youth, a marvelous way for a personal encounter with Jesus in the presence of the Pope. So the real protagonist is Christ, not the show, nor the multitude of young people. It can’t be considered the “Catholic Woodstock;” a multi-cultural festival of Catholic young people which leaves no lasting trace when the lights go down. It is an ecclesial event with an enormous participation: in Manila in 1995, 5 million young people took part; in Rome, during the Jubilee of the year 2000, there were 2 million. And although it is an event which involves crowds, every single young person who participates, remains profoundly moved. WYD – if lived as a possibility to encounter Christ – can transform the lives of those who take part. Certainly, it requires a long journey of preparation, beginning with the message that the Pope writes every year to youth on the occasion of the Day celebrated in individual dioceses on Palm Sunday. There are many parishes, associations, ecclesial movements and youth groups that organize study days of the Pope’s message. But the most precious fruits are of a personal nature between God and young people, and it is logical that it should be so.

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