More than 70,000 young people from various dioceses of Italy have begun converging on Rome for two major events with Pope Francis on Saturday and Sunday. The events are the culmination of a weeklong walking pilgrimage that some 40,000 young people began on August 3 through the territories of their dioceses, called “Per Mille Strade”, the Italian for “Across Thousand Roads”.
“We are Here”
The meetings with the Pope in the Eternal City, has been dubbed “Siamo Qui”, or “We are Here” by the National Service for Youth Ministry of the Italian Bishops’ Conference (CEI), the organizer of the entire initiative.
The Youth Ministry explained that the pilgrimage and the Rome programmes are in preparation for two important international events in the Catholic Church – the Synod of Bishops on young people in October in the Vatican, and the World Youth Day in Panama in January.
The Saturday evening prayer vigil at Rome’s Circus Maximus ground that Pope Francis is joining, will be marked by prayers, talks, scripture reflections, testimonies, dance, songs and other performances including by some of Italy’s top singers. The Pope is scheduled to speak to the young and deliver a reflection.
After the celebration at Circus Maximus, the participants will visit some of the churches of Rome that will be kept open for them throughout the night. They will spend time at the confessionals, in individual or group prayer, reflections, and contemplate on the experiences and encounters of the past days.
Various groups, associations, movements and dioceses have taken care to organize programmes in these churches on a variety of themes and topics to help the youth prepare for the concluding Mass in Rome’s St. Peter’s Square, Sunday morning.
The Italian region of Marche or the Marches has brought to Rome an image of Our Lady of Loreto and the San Damiano Cross, which the official youth delegation of Italy will carry to the World Youth Day in Panama. Saturday night, the Marche group is organizing a prayer in front of these two images.
Sunday's concluding Mass at St. Peter’s Square, will be presided over by Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, the President of the Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI). At the end of the Mass Pope Francis will hand the young people a missionary mandate and bless the San Damiano Cross and the image of the Madonna of Loreto for the World Youth Day.