Being in Madrid for World Youth Day has been a wonderful experience so far, but I was rather bemused when colleagues back home contacted us to ask about the protest against the Pope´s visit. They heard through the media that a mass protest had taken place involving more than 100 different groups opposed to the Holy Father´s visit. Now it is always possible that there were more than 100 different groups involved but if so it seems that they didn´t field many people. An eye-witness who walked past the demonstration told me that it consisted of no more than 250 people and that more than thousand pilgrims gathered in a spontaneous counter demonstration, drowning out the protesters with shouts of "Benedicto!" To be honest none of us thought much of it when we heard about it. It was obviously much smaller than the protest against the papal visit to the UK last September. So I was very surprised to find that it had made it on to the news in the UK and Ireland - and that it had apparently featured so prominantly. Colleagues who contacted us were even concerned for our safety! Of course, I haven´t seen the reports in the papers but as someone curently out in Madrid the impressions we´ve received from those who saw the news back home seem to bear little resemblance to what we heard described by an eye-witness. It seems that a small protest was exaggerated to make it appear a lot more significant than it really was. Perhaps it was a slow news day?
John Newton is Press Officer for ACN (UK). He is in Madrid for World Youth Day to help out with the exhibition on Christian persecution which is part of the official WYD cultural programme.