What was supposed to be the amazing culmination of what I would say has been a fantastic World Youth Day experience has kicked off on a sour note.
Here’s what was supposed to happen: After making an estimated two and a half hour trek to Cuatro Vientos, we were supposed to take part in the papal mass, sleep there overnight and end WYD with the closing mass tomorrow. Our experience has been a little different.
After walking over four hours in the blazing heat (the temperature was 46 C during the height of our walk), we were turned away at Cuatro Vientos. There were no volunteers along the road to give us water. (We relied on vendors and running into restaurants to fill our water bottles). Apparently, organizers underestimated the number of people who would show up. It didn’t matter that we had bought tickets. Police had implemented a lock down.
Truly, it was a very sad scene in Cuatro Vientos tonight. Pilgrims have travelled from all over the world to experience World Youth Day. And while we have definitely done so–and it has been incredible–the loss of this experience which so many have been looking forward to for so long is a bitter pill to swallow. No one can believe this has happened. Such a contrast to everything else we’ve experienced.
I’m not sure how such a massive miscalculation could be made. Pilgrims I’ve spoken with who made it inside Cuatro Vientos told me they ran out of food for the pilgrims inside. They didn’t see washrooms readily accessible on site. The crowds looked like they were close to becoming mob-like. This is not what World Youth Day is supposed to look like.
Of course, there are the positives. The Canadian pilgrims gathered and prayed together onsite despite the chaos. Friends and acquaintances banded together in the extreme circumstances (it started raining in the midst of everything) and despite the heat, pilgrims prayed the rosary and sang together on the walk over. Fellowship was not in short supply.
But right now (and I’m sure for a long time), pilgrims just have one question: How did this happen?