Founder of the World Youth Alliance and friend of First Things Anna Halpine is chronicling events in Madrid in a “World Youth Day Diary” for Standpoint that you can find on that magazine’s weblog.
In her first entry, Halpine suggests that the event is an outgrowth of the Solidarity movement in Poland. She doesn’t draw out the political or cultural implications of this observation, but it suggests that World Youth Day is (however obliquely) a mass demonstration, a protest, an act of resistance.
But to what? Spain is not under the thumb of Soviet Communism. The answer, perhaps, is the “dictatorship of relativism,” the system that seeks to obscure or deny what Benedict XVI called “the unchanging truth about man’s nature, his destiny and his ultimate good.”
It is hardly surprising that men like John Paul II or our own Richard John Neuhaus drew inspiration from political causes as they sought to advance the Christian witness. For while the Church’s mission is evangelical, not political, that mission will sometimes require testifying against falsehoods that are cultural and political.
I doubt that the attendees of World Youth Day think of their acts in these political terms (nor, probably, should they). But it is not hard to imagine that today the boisterous, joyous, and unapologetically public expression of faith is a more radical political act than any sit-in or strike.