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Pilgrims launch giant party for Pope

SPAIN: Hundreds of thousands of sweltering pilgrims crammed into central Madrid for a giant open-air mass Tuesday, launching a million-strong, six-day Catholic youth party for Pope Benedict XVI.

The rock-festival style celebration of World Youth Day has drawn faithful from 193 nations, according to organisers but also criticism in the midst of Spainís economic hardship.

From a vast white stage adorned with an image of Mary and Jesus before City Hall in the emblematic Plaza Cibeles square, Madridís archbishop, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, celebrated the inaugural mass in the evening.

Some 800 bishops, archbishops and cardinals from around the world joined him, many shielding themselves from the sun with white umbrellas. Another 8,000 priests concelebrated the mass.

The service, accompanied by hundreds of choristers, was dedicated to the late Pope John Paul II. AFP

 

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