For 200 young city Catholics flying to Spain on Sunday, it will be a 10-day vacation filled with Indo-Spanish cultural exchange, interactions with youth from around the world, and a chance to get a glimpse of the Pope himself.
The youth, aged between 15 and 30, will be among the 1,500 Indians to participate in the World Youth Day celebrations in Spain, where nearly a million young Christians are expected to gather from August 8 to 18.
Youth Day, an annual festival falling on Palm Sunday, was launched 25 years ago by Pope John Paul II and is usually celebrated at the local parish level. Every three years, however, it is organised as an international event for youth around the globe to meet each other and interact with the Pope.
"Pope John Paul loved young people and wanted to bring them closer to him through the festival," said Father Warner D'Souza, the priest in charge of the 52-member contingent representing Bandra's Mount Carmel and Malad's Orlem churches.
For the Mumbai delegation, the Spain trip will include five days of home stays and cultural exchange with Spanish families in the town of Merida, and five days in Madrid where Pope Benedict XVI will hold sermons and masses.
"This trip will be a great way to merge spirituality with fun," said Brian D'Souza, 29, a media professional from Bandra who is keen to experience the atmosphere in Spain after its football World Cup win last year.
For musician Gwen Dias, whose band By Grace has composed Hindi gospel songs for the trip, this will be her second international Youth Day experience after the 2008 gathering in Sydney. "Youth abroad have many misconceptions about India which I will get a chance to clear," said Dias, 26, a Malad resident.