Youth protagonist of the mission

An article by Fr. Chagas on the celebration of the WYD in the local churches


It was November 19, 2020, Solemnity of Christ the King, when the Holy Father announced that from 2021 the diocesan celebration of the WYD would no longer be celebrated on Palm Sunday, rather on the Solemnity of Christ the King. «Dear young people, cry out with your life that Christ lives, that Christ reigns, that Christ is the Lord! If you keep silent, I tell you the very stones will cry out! »  (cf. Lk 19:40) he said to them at the end of that Eucharistic celebration.

In 2021, the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life – that promotes the WYD - published the “Pastoral Guidelines for the Celebration of World Youth Day in the Particular Churches” (cfwww.laityfamilylife.va) that has the aim «to encourage the particular Churches to give increasingly more importance to the diocesan celebration of WYD. They are to look on it as a favourable opportunity to be creative in planning and implementing initiatives that show that the Church considers its mission with young people to be “a pastoral priority of epoch-making significance in which to invest time, energy and resources”. (Final document of the Synod on Youth 2018, n. 119) We need to ensure that the younger generations feel that they are at the centre of the Church’s attention and pastoral concern. Indeed, young people want to be involved and appreciated, and to feel that they are co-protagonists in the life and mission of the Church» (Ibid.).

On November 21, 2021, in a St. Peter's Basilica packed with young people, the Holy Father celebrated the diocesan WYD on its new date for the first time. For this year's edition, the Diocese of Rome is planning a prayer vigil at the Marian Shrine of Divine Love, precisely to reconnect with the Marian theme of WYD 2022-2023: “Mary arose and went with haste” (Lk 1:39): «After the Annunciation, Mary could have focused on herself and her own worries and fears about her new condition.  Instead, […] She arises and sets out, for she is certain that God’s plan is the best plan for her life. Mary becomes a temple of God, an image of the pilgrim Church, a Church that goes forth for service, a Church that brings the good news to all!».

In the pastoral project proposed by the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, the youth are strongly encouraged to engage in service to the poorest. In fact, the Church celebrates the World Day of the Poor precisely on the Sunday before Christ the King. In the previously mentioned Pastoral Guidelines, we read that the local WYD is an excellent opportunity «to promote initiatives in which young people donate their time and energy for the benefit of the most disadvantaged, the marginalised and those who are discarded by society. In this way, young people are offered the chance to become “protagonists of the revolution of charity and service, capable of resisting the pathologies of consumerism and superficial individualism” ».

It is precisely in this sense that the youth of the San Lorenzo International Youth Center - linked to our Dicastery - invited the poorest and most marginalized to a convivial and prayerful gathering on Saturday, November 12. Caritas Internationalis also proposed an important initiative linking the Day of the Poor with the Youth Day: a week-long program marked by prayers, reflections and actions, with young people as its protagonists. Among the many proposals, we would like to mention the online prayer of the Holy Rosary, with an invitation to a concrete commitment.

The Holy Father's call to celebrate the youth has resonated with other particular Churches as well. In Poland, where the National Forum for Youth Ministry recently took place, many dioceses are organizing local gatherings with their young people on the feast of Christ the King, in communion with the universal Church.

Even Lisbon, host of the August 2023 International WYD, is offering a series of activities for young people for the weekend of Nov. 19 and 20, an opportunity for them to live a strong experience of prayer, communion and mission.

As evidence of the inseparable link between the local WYD and its international edition, on Christ the King, the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences invites all young people throughout the continent to participate in the Asian Youth Gathering. The meeting, intended by the organizers as a stepping stone to WYD Lisbon 2023, will be held in virtual mode. And to mark the occasion, a Holy Mass will be celebrated at Singapore's Jesus the Good Shepherd Cathedral and broadcast live for all participants.

The Church of Brazil, for its part, got ahead of the game by celebrating its Dia Nacional da Juventude (DNJ) as early as last Nov. 6, in keeping with tradition. The event consisted of pastoral proposals, missions and liturgical celebrations, and drew thousands of young people from across the large South American country.

On the opposite side of the Atlantic, on the other hand, the Church in South Africa is preparing to celebrate the Interdiocesan Youth and Young Adults Conference - the first since the outbreak of the pandemic - to reflect together on the participation of the younger generation in the life and mission of the Church. The meeting will be held in the first half of December in the Archdiocese of Bloemfontein.

So, as can be clearly seen from these few among the many testimonies gathered, the dates of the national events may not coincide with the Solemnity of Christ the King; the modalities of the initiatives may vary, but they are all meant to be an expression of the Church's pastoral charity toward the new generations. Hence, this is our renewed invitation to every diocese and eparchy to manifest this same love for young people on the occasion of Christ the King, even if only through prayers and communication campaigns. So to create a network of testimonies and promote spiritual communion among young people, the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, Caritas Internationalis and the Local Organizing Committee of the WYD Lisbon 2023 are launching the hashtag #AriseandGo and a promotional video (available at www.laityfamilylife.va) that take up the theme of Pope Francis' Message for World Youth Day 2022-2023: "Mary arose and went with haste" (Lk. 1:39).

by Fr. João Chagas, Head of the Youth Office of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life.

Original Italian - © L'Osservatore romano, 18-11-2022

18 November 2022