One person attending the Mariapolis in Astorga for the first time described it as a “heart to heart meeting.” It was just one of the many similar Mariapolises that are underway or have already taken place across Europe and in many other lands. The Mariapolis of August 2-6 was a peaceful “invasion” of the town by 800 people from several parts of Spain, but also from France, Italy, Germany and Brazil.
During excursions to monuments and museums, at Mass celebrated in the Gothic Cathedral, or during the evening concerts with all types of music – the streets were crowded with people from the Mariapolis. And the local citizens of Astorga whose curiosity had been aroused by the fraternal spirit of those people, responded in kind. One woman stopped a girl who was walking down the street to thank her for the presence of such a joyful group in their city.
The balance between periods of relaxation, formation, dialogue, listening to testimonies and play was much appreciated. It was a good mix that contributed to the objectives of the Mariapolis: to favour an encounter with oneself, God, and others. One participant observed: “It wasn’t a crescendo that began at a one level and then progressed in quality or intensity. Each day was full, complete, and totally valuable in itself.”
Amongst the activities for children and teens were several marches in the city, with stops in certain streets and squares where activities were held.
The Astorga Mariapolis was also on Facebook, a virtual meeting spot for both the participants and for those who could not physically attend. Many contributed photos that can still be accessed online. Some of the comments: https://www.facebook.com/mariapolisastorga2015
“This is my first Mariapolis,” Cati writes. “These days were filled with brotherhood, love and unity. My family and I thank everyone who made this wonderful event possible;” “I’m still on my way home towards Toledo,” writes Paco. “I take the opportunity to thank everyone for these past few days. I have to say that it was a Mariapolis filled with graces.”
A project was proposed that would bring the Mariapolis spirit into daily life: “We’re all Mediterranean” to help inform European citizens on the drama of immigration that is taking place in our common Mediterranean Sea, from southern borders, from disadvantaged and war-torn lands, in search for better living conditions. This project, which is in harmony with the theme of this year’s Mariapolis (“Paths that meet”) involves a collection of signatures to petition the European Union for a significant change in migration policy.
On the last day of the Mariapolis when the participants were asked for their evaluation of the event, everyone said they were satisfied, especially with regard to the way they felt welcomed from the moment they arrived, even those who were attending for the first time.
The town of Astorga built to a human scale and with such a pleasant climate, combined so many features that helped facilitate the coming together which was the goal of the Mariapolis. For this reason the organisers of the Mariapolis write: “the Focolare Movement expresses its warm gratitude to the Diocese and Town Administration for their exquisite collaboration.”