When we leave Zaragoza for Madrid on 15 August, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, archbishop in the Spanish capital, will be receiving the youth of the world for the second time in his career as bishop. When the World Youth Days of 1989 were held in Santiago de Compostela, he was archbishop there. In 1994 he was moved to Madrid, where, from 16 to 21 August, the 2011 edition of the WYD will take place.
The Metropolitan Archdiocese of Madrid lies in the Spanish heartland. It is one of the smaller dioceses in size, but not in population, since it contains the urban sprawl of the Spanish capital. There are an estimated 3.5 million Catholics (about 90% of the total population) living in the archdiocese. As a diocese, Madrid is not very old. Only in 1885 was it split off from the Archdiocese of Toledo. In 1964 it became an Archdiocese, but it took until 1991 for two suffragan dioceses, Alcalá de Henares and Getafe, to be split off from Madrid., and it to become a Metropolitan see. The map below shows the location of the triangular Province of Madrid, with the archdiocese in dark green.
The current episcopal hierarchy of Madrid consists of the aforementioned Cardinal Rouco Varela and three auxiliary bishops – Msgr. César Franco Martínez, Msgr. Fidel Herráez Vegas and Msgr. Juan Martínez Camino.
The cathedral of the archdiocese if the Catedral de Santa María la Real de la Almudena – the Cathedral of Our Lady of Almudena – located on the western edge of Madrid’s old centre. It is also a fairly new cathedral, only consecrated by Blessed Pope John Paul II in 1993.
It is not known yet if the cathedral will be playing a part in our own travel plans. While in Madrid, there will be daily Masses as well as catechesis session, but the latter will be taking place in the Basílica de Nuestro Padre Jesús de Medinaceli, located only a few hundred meters from the location where Pope Benedict XVI will be welcomed into the city on 18 August. The basilica is built around a statue of Jesus the Nazarene, which has gained a solid devotion over the course of centuries. It is said to play a part in the Stations of the Cross on 19 August.