On 10 August I, and some 100 other young people, will depart Utrecht to head south to Spain. Our destination: the World Youth Days in Madrid. Along the way to the ultimate celebration of faith, hope and love that is the vigil and Mass with people from all over the globe and united with our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, we will stop at various places. The first is the Archdiocese of Zaragoza, where we will take part in the so-called Days in the Diocese as preparation for the actual WYD, which starts on 16 August.
The Metropolitan Archdiocese of Zaragoza is one of Spain’s 71 dioceses, archdioceses and other circumscriptions. It is an ancient diocese, tracing its history back to the 5th century, when it was named for Caesar Augustus. In 1318 it became an archdiocese.
As a metropolitan archdiocese it has four suffragan dioceses, indicated in light green on the map to the left: Barbastro-Monzón, Huesca, Tarazona and Teruel y Albarracín.
The city of Zaragoza, from which the archdiocese takes its name, is located on the Ebro river, and so is the cathedral church, the Catedral de El Salvador de la Seo. Zaragoza also has a co-cathedral, the Catedral Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar, located just a few hundred meters upriver from the cathedral. This Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar is built on the site where the Apostle St. James the Great saw an apparition of the Blessed Virgin in the year 40, even before her assumption into heaven. Subsequently, the place, tradition has it, became the site for the first church in the world dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Centrepiece of the basilica is the small wooden statue of the Virgin, given to the Apostle with the instruction to build a church in her honour.
Together with young pilgrims from Poland and Italy, we will be the guests of the clergy and faithful of the city and archdiocese. There will be cultural and spiritual events, in and around the city and in the co-cathedral. Just before our departure for Madrid, Archbishop Manuel Ureña Pastor is expected to offer Mass for us all, quite likely in concelebration with clergy from the archdiocese and from our own groups.
The five Days in the Diocese will be neatly divided in events for smaller and larger groups, as well as major events for all pilgrims. Among the latter will be a Christian art festival on the next to last day. The archdiocese offers a word of welcome and a schedule.