International Meeting On WYD

Sydney 2008 – Madrid 2011
Rome, 3–5 April 2009

By Matet Gayondato

Being based in Italy I was asked to represent the Teresian Association at the first international meeting organized by the Pontifical Council for the Laity (PCL) in preparation for the Madrid World Youth Day (WYD) in 2011, held in Rome from April 3 to 5. Representatives from 70 countries and 30 international Catholic communities, associations and movements, and the organizing committees of Sydney and Madrid came to take part in the meeting to assess the WYD in Sydney and to start planning for Madrid.

The president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, opened the meeting and reflections. He invited the participants to let themselves be ‘provoked’ by WYD making it a possible inspiration and guideline to address ordinary pastoral action in ministering to the young. But he emphasised that it is not a magic formula that will resolve the very arduous task of educating young people. He cited the letter of Benedict XVI on the urgent situation of education, a difficult task for all those who in different ways accompany young people in their human and spiritual growth. According to him ‘passion’ is the fundamental attitude in youth ministry, defining it as pastoral passion for young people.

Cardinal George Pell, Archbishop of Sydney, stated that the fruits of WYD in his city will remain and develop.  A new light in thinking about Christ and the Church has taken over among those who are normally outside the church. An image of an engaging, open and alive church is emerging. He mentioned several times that working together for the WYD within the Church enhanced interaction, communication and dialogue among pastors themselves. The birth of youth groups and parish cooperation are among the blessings received by Church in Australia. The pastoral impact considered the pilgrims’ progress before, during and after WYD. We can say that the major impact is a major change in the sense of Catholic identity and sense of community. Bishop Anthony Fisher OP, auxiliary bishop of Sydney, noted the evangelical energy that has transpired from WYD reminding us that indeed we have been given the commission to shine. What is significant is pastoral renewal capitalizing on this new energy. The challenge is likewise a significant follow-up such as youth formation courses, retreats, youth camps, national gatherings and dialogue with youth leaders.

WYD brought together people who had never met before and created communion among Australian bishops. It restored faith among young people and confirmed the effectiveness of using artistic expression in announcing our faith. Father Eric Jacquinet, head of the Youth Section of the PCL, moderated the discussion on the pastoral aspect.

On Friday afternoon a panel talked on the impact of WYD on the Church in various countries. Sr Eileen McCann CSJ, Coordinator for Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Secretariat for Family, Laity, Woman, and Youth for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, shared that church ministry is growing and youth ministry is strong at the national level. The focus is empowering young adults to witness Christ in the world of work. Towards Madrid, the intention is to reach out to the Hispanic young adult population of the USA and to work on preparatory catechesis. In the Church in Burundi the National Cross is lived as an event of young people according to Fr Salvator Niciterete. Jesus reconciled us in the cross and for a country marred by war it is imperative to work for reconciliation. Youth days are celebrated in regional and at national level with representatives from neighboring countries. The presence of the apostolic nuncio means contact with the universal church.

WYD as a major youth event for the Church in Asia was shared Joy Candelario from the Youth Desk of the Federation of Asian Bishops Conference office of the Laity and the Family. Asian Youth Day is vital in giving voice to the young people of Asia, especially from socialist countries where Catholics are a minority, to celebrate our faith. It is also a venue to work out interreligious themes, follow-up sessions on community building and a common plan of action.

The second day of the meeting was dedicated to WYD 2011 which will be held in Madrid. Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, the Archbishop of Madrid, talked on the significance of the event for Spain and for Madrid in particular. ‘Spain, evangelizer and Spain, evangelized’ inspired his reflection bringing to mind its role in the Americas and inviting Asia and Africa to relive the faith received. Big hopes lay on this WYD that Spain as well as Europe will rediscover its Christian roots and origin. It will mark a new beginning and renewed vigour for the Church in Spain.

Auxiliary Bishop César Augusto Franco Martínez of Madrid reminded us that the evangelizing task is primarily the work of the Holy Spirit if we let ourselves be penetrated by his power or ‘dynamis’. It is in our availability to the Holy Spirit that we situate ourselves in our ecclesial efforts. The challenge is to accompany young people in their faith journey. They need to be attended to in deepening their relationship with Christ and in becoming witnesses to their peers and contemporaries.  Pastoral care includes helping young people ‘to broaden the horizons of their intelligence, to open themselves to the mystery of God, in whom is found life, meaning and direction, and to overcome the conditioning of a rationality which trusts only what can be the object of experiment and calculation’ (Benedict XVI). The capacity to welcome each other, to build relationships and to get into concrete experiences of service is precisely the dynamis that WYD brings about.

Youth Ministry in Spain was presented, with its difficulties and hopes. The objective is to bring unity between Christ and his Church and discover Christ within the Church.  It is common to young people to experience a rupture between Christ and the Church. Another objective is to work towards an adequate preparation to better appreciate the liturgy, the peak of all WYD celebrations. Activities such Biblical Pilgrimages (El Camino de Santiago) and contemplative prayer will be offered to participants.

WYD is celebrated in Rome on Palm Sunday during ‘off years’ and so Palm Sunday celebrations in St Peter’s Square marked the conclusion of the meeting with the traditional handing over of the WYD Cross and Icon by the young people of Australia to the young people of Spain.