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Thunderstorm forces Pope to cut speech

Cesar Manso / AFP - Getty Images

Pope Benedict XVI is protected by several white umbrellas because of strong winds and rain while leading a prayer vigil on a vast dusty esplanade outside Madrid during the World Youth Day (WYD) festivities on Aug. 20.

David Ramos / Getty Images

Lightning illuminates the sky as a storm occurs the during a Vigil as part of the World Youth Day 2011 on Aug. 20, in Madrid, Spain. Initiated by Pope John Paul II in 1985, World Youth Day, which includes youth-oriented events for the celebration of the Catholic faith, is held every three years in a different country; this time in Madrid from Aug. 16 - 21.

Javier Soriano / AFP - Getty Images

Bishops react as the Pope arrives on a vast dusty esplanade outside Madrid prior to a prayer vigil led by Pope Benedict XVI during the World Youth Day (WYD) festivities on Aug. 20.

J.J. Guillen / EPA

An aerial view of a fire engine on the Cuatro Vientos aerodrome spraying water to cool some of the thousands of pilgrims from all over the world waiting for the vigil that Pope Benedict XVI will celebrate with the participants of the 26th World Youth Day festival, in Madrid, Aug. 20. The pontiff arrived on in Madrid on Aug. 18 to chair the Catholic World Youth Day festival, which is expected to gather more than one million pilgrims from Aug. 16 - 21.

Pedro Armestre / AFP - Getty Images

Some of hundreds of thousands of young pilgrims react as water is poured to refresh them as they gather in blistering heat on a vast dusty esplanade outside Madrid to hear a prayer vigil led by Pope Benedict XVI during the World Youth Day (WYD) festivities on Aug. 20. Emergency services said they had attended to more than 150 people by early afternoon, mostly for fainting and heatstroke as temperatures soared to 39 C (102 F) in the Cuatro Vientos (Four Winds) air base. The pope will hold a "Prayer Vigil" in the evening at an airbase southwest of the capital, where the pilgrims will spend the night under the stars on an esplanade the size of 48 football fields.

Andres Kudacki / AP

A pilgrim waits for Pope Benedict XVI's arrival at Cuatro Vientos airport in Madrid, Aug. 20. The Pontiff arrived in Spain for a four-day visit including the Catholic Church's World Youth Day.

AP reports:

A freak thunderstorm on Saturday forced Pope Benedict XVI to cut short his speech to an estimated million young pilgrims gathered for the church's world youth festival, giving the outdoor prayer vigil at a Madrid airfield a dramatic climax.

During the day, firefighters atop fire trucks had sprayed the crowds with water from hoses, and pilgrims sought shade from umbrellas, trees, tarps and tents in a bid to stave off the near 40-degree Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) heat. As night fell, a flash downpour drenched the crowd: with lightening lighting up the night sky, the 84-year-old Benedict was forced to skip the bulk of his speech and merely deliver brief greetings in a half-dozen languages.

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