On Thursday, 18 August 2011, King Juan Carlos I welcomed the Holy Father to Spain, at Madrid-Barajas International Airport, in the following address, in which the King acknowledged the cultural and religious contribution of Christianity as "key to understanding Spain’s historical personality."
It is from the heart that I welcome you most warmly to Spain, a country that greets you with great joy and pleasant memories of your earlier visits here, occasions on which we were privileged to enjoy your friendship and amiability.
We are honoured that you are today beginning your third visit to Spain in the six years of your Pontificate.
We see this as a special distinction for our country, which we greatly esteem and appreciate.
Once again, your stay among us, and we hope you will make yourself quite at home, is pregnant with meaning and import.
We know how you have looked forward to coming to Madrid, one of Europe’s most open and hospitable capitals, to meet young people from all over the world and reach out to them with the power of your word.
Hundreds of thousands of young men and women from the different parts of Spain and the four corners of the Earth eagerly await you to hold the Twenty-Sixth World Youth Day and to receive your message in all its profundity.
We are keenly aware that the organisation of this event has for years expressed the Church’s desire to support and stand by young people as they seek to fulfil their legitimate aspirations in this complex and interdependent world.
We also retain fond memories of the great figure of His Holiness Pope John Paul the Second, who inspired this initiative and also made his third visit to Spain to preside at the memorable Fourth World Youth Day held in 1989 in Santiago de Compostela.
World Youth Day returns for a second time to Spain, a country whose young people, families and institutions are delighted to welcome all of our visitors from all over the world with open arms.
Many have come a long way to attest their ambition to make the world a better place in a climate of friendship.
In Spain they will find a country that is open to the world in its history, language and culture, and a great democratic nation that is both ancient and diverse, peace-loving and desirous of freedom and justice.
As I stressed on the occasion of your farewell from Barcelona, the artistic, cultural and religious contribution of Christianity is key to understanding Spain’s historical personality.
Spain is committed to Europe and has a profound Latin American and Mediterranean vocation. It is at the same time a nation of committed youth, amply reflected in the involvement of our young people in Cooperation and Development work and international peace keeping operations.
The deep feelings of solidarity, social commitment and eager pursuit of personal realisation shown by Spanish youth, the best educated generation in our history, inspire our pride and confidence in the future.
We have seen great changes in the lives of ordinary men and women and on the international scene since the First World Youth Day.
Together with progress, discoveries and new opportunities, however, poverty persists along with disease, attacks on human rights and the dignity of human beings, and above all the pain of wars and the unacceptable scourge of terrorism.
As this World Youth Day begins, we cannot but remember the countless children and young men and women who are the victims of violence, and for whom we keep a special place in our hearts today.
All of those who have come to Madrid await your teachings of peace, charity and justice to shape their lives, successfully face today’s challenges and build a better society.
These are not easy times for young people, so often frustrated by the lack of personal horizons and jobs at the same time as they rebel against the grave problems that burden humanity and today's world.
At the bottom of this, a profound crisis of values can be felt. Youth needs not only opportunity but an example from the older generation. It is not merely arguments but motivational attitudes that fill and drive young people’s existence and breathe hope into their lives.
As Your Holiness has said in your message to this World Youth Day, “To desire what is truly great is a part of being young.”
We cannot afford to disappoint young people in their legitimate desire to make their dreams a reality. Their aspirations and problems must be our first priority. It is their future, but it is also the future of society as a whole.
Now is the time to redouble our support, to provide young people with all possible resources to help them make their way, to put an end to the disgrace of youth unemployment, and to encourage young people to take up the torch of the values that make humanity great.
We trust in your inspiration, Holy Father, not only to encourage the youth of Spain and of the whole world to go on growing in values, but also to make our societies more sensitive to the need to support young people’s projects and hopes.
I repeat my most affectionate and cordial welcome in the name of the Queen, in my own, and in the name of the people of Spain and its institutions.
Your Holiness, we wish you a happy and fruitful stay with us, this time in the historic and beautiful city of Madrid, and in this dynamic region.
Many thanks, Your Holiness, for visiting us once again.