The Vatican prepares the ground for World Youth Day in Portugal

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ROME — Ahead of the international observance of World Youth Day next year — a global gathering that brings together thousands of young people for talks, fellowship and facetime with the pope — a senior Vatican official has praised creativity of young people and said that they should be protagonists not only of the event itself, but also of the organizing process.

Addressing delegates attending a preparatory meeting in Fatima, U.S. Cardinal Kevin Farrell, head of the Vatican Office for Laity, Family and Life, said the delegates are all members of “a universal church that is travelling”.


“Pope Francis wants this type of synodal church” and spoke of “a synodal youth ministry that is a ‘wonderful polyhedron,'” Farrell said, adding that in this process, “young people themselves are the protagonists of change”.

“For this reason, I encourage all of you, in the preparation of World Youth Days in your countries and in your movements, to let young people themselves be the protagonists”, he said, affirming that young people have many “great creative ideas” on how to organize World Youth Day pilgrimages.

Instituted by Pope Saint John Paul II as a way to reach young people and engage them in the life of the Church, World Youth Days (WYD) were established in 1985, the first international gathering to have place in Rome in 1986.

With the institution of WYD, John Paul II invited bishops to celebrate the event each year in their dioceses each Palm Sunday and to send young people to international gatherings, which take place every two or three years in different places. of the world.

Pope Francis, who attended the last WYD in Panama in 2019, changed the date of diocesan WYD celebrations to the feast of Christ the King in 2021, rather than Palm Sunday.

Originally scheduled for 2022 but delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the next Youth Day Gathering will be held in Lisbon from August 1-6, 2023. The previous week, July 24-31, young people are invited at the “Days in the Dioceses” in all the dioceses and archdioceses of Portugal.

Lisbon is a stone’s throw from the famous Marian shrine of Fatima, where the Virgin Mary appeared to three shepherd children on the 13th of every month between May and October 1917. Pope Francis visited Fatima on May 12 and 13, 2017 for the celebration of the centenary of the apparitions, declaring two of the shepherd children, Jacinta and Francisco Marto, saints.

Over the years, WYD has earned the nickname “Catholic WYD” because of the massive crowds of Holy Spirit-uplifted young people who travel to global gatherings.

Around 300 delegates from 100 countries belonging to episcopal conferences and various Catholic movements and associations attended the October 17-19 preparatory meeting for next year’s international event, marking the first time they have met in person since the 2019 gathering in Panama, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The event is organized by the Local Organizing Committee of the XXXVII WYD in Lisbon in collaboration with the Youth Office of the Vatican Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life.

In his opening remarks at the preparatory meeting, Farrell spoke of the diversity of the delegates present, calling it an act of “building bridges between entire cultures and nations.”

“This is what World Youth Day has represented since its inception. This message is never old and today it is very necessary,” he said.

Including young people in the process of organizing WYD is not only necessary, he said, but it is also a sign of the “synodality” that Pope Francis often speaks of, which loosely means a process wide consultation ensuring that everyone’s perspectives are heard and taken into account when decisions have to be made.

“The principle of synodality also has direct relevance to our gathering here in Fatima,” Farrell told delegates that while the main organizing committee gave presentations on the process and its status, “building bridges between entire cultures and nations”.

“It would not be a synodal church. We are all co-organizers of the next World Youth Days! We are all jointly responsible,” he said, urging participants to “do everything possible to support the Lisbon hosts and their efforts.”

As the largest youth event in the world, WYD requires extraordinary organizational and logistical efforts, but the impact of the gathering is felt on another level, Farrell said, pointing to the many young people who first felt a call to consecrated or priestly life or who have met future spouses at a WYD event.

“These are the movements that come from Christ. His love moves young people as he drove Mary into the hills of Judea to visit her cousin Elizabeth,” he said, urging delegates to form “a strong community of prayer in this special place” of Fatima.

“Let us be open in these days to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Trust Him to move us. Let us entrust all our preparations to him”, he said, asking that the next WYD be “an open space where young people can meet Christ and find in him the vocation of their life” and “a new beginning” for the whole society.

Follow Elise Ann Allen on Twitter: @eliseannallen

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