Pope Benedict XVI returned to Rome on Sunday night after a four-day visit to Spain, hailed as a massive success.
An estimated 1.5 (m) million young pilgrims gathered in Madrid from all over the world the Roman Catholic Church’s World Youth Day.
This is Benedict’s third World Youth Day, the gathering of young Catholics from around the world once every three years that was launched a quarter-century ago by Pope John Paul II in a bid to reinvigorate and spread the faith among the young.
Observers said it felt like a weeklong rock concert and camping trip, with bands of flag-toting pilgrims roaming Madrid’s otherwise empty streets to take part in prayer and education sessions, Masses, cultural outings and papal events.
At the end of Sunday’s Mass, Benedict announced that the next World Youth Day will be in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2013 – a year early to avoid conflicts with the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
The 84-year-old Pontiff said he hoped to attend and Brazilians in the crowd jumped, whooped and cheered.