By Vatican News staff writer
The Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life held a press conference on Tuesday to present some “Pastoral Guidelines for the Celebration of World Youth Day in the Particular Churches.”
The guidelines, according to the Dicastery, are “intended to be a resource that presents the ideal motivations and possible practical implementations that will allow a diocesan/eparchial WYD to be an opportunity to bring out the potential for good that is in each young person, with their generosity, thirst for authentic values and great ideals.”
The event, streamed live from the Holy See Press office, featured several speakers including Fr. Alexandre Awi Mello and and Fr. João Chagas, the Secretary and head of the Youth office of the Dicastery respectively, among others.
World Youth Day
The international celebrations of World Youth Day (WYD) are held every three years in a different country with the participation of the Holy Father. The ordinary celebration of the event, on the other hand, takes place annually in the particular Churches that undertake the organization of the observance.
Every year, ahead of the celebrations, the Holy Father publishes a Message intended to “accompany the journey of the universal Church with young people.”
Providing some background to the celebration, the document notes that WYD was the result of “great prophetic insight” from Pope St. John Paul II. The Polish Saint wanted all young people to feel that they are cared for by the Church and therefore moved that the “entire Church on a worldwide level, in union with the Successor of Peter, be more and more committed to young people, to their concerns and worries and to their aspirations and hopes, so as to meet their expectations by communicating the certainty that is Christ, the Truth that is Christ, the love that is Christ.”
Pope Benedict XVI continued along the same lines and on various occasions stressed that these events are “a providential gift for the Church…a remedy against faith fatigue”, “a new, more youthful form of Christianity” and “new evangelisation put into practice.”
In a similar manner, Pope Francis provides an extraordinary missionary thrust to the Church, especially to the young generations. At the end of the WYD in Rio de Janeiro in 2013, he said that the event was “was a new stage on the pilgrimage of youth crossing the continents bearing the Cross of Christ”. He said to the youths: “Let us always remember: young people do not follow the Pope, they follow Jesus Christ, bearing his Cross. And the Pope guides them and accompanies them on this journey of faith and hope.”
In particular Churches
The document highlights that celebrating WYD in particular churches has great significance for young people and the local ecclesial community because some cannot participate at the international level due to studies, work or financial difficulties. In this regard, celebrating locally “serves to raise awareness among the ecclesial community as a whole − laity, priests, consecrated persons, families, adults and the elderly – of their mission to transmit the faith to the younger generations.”
Moreover, the 2018 General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the theme of “Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment” (2018) reminded us that the whole Church, including the universal and the particular, must feel responsible for young people and be willing to allow ourselves be challenged by their questions, their desires and their difficulties. Thus, the celebrations are useful for keeping the Church “mindful of the importance of walking with young people, and of welcoming them and listening to them with patience while proclaiming the Word of God to them with affection and power.”
These pastoral guidelines, therefore, are to be considered as a “favourable opportunity to be creative in planning and implementing initiatives” that shows 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.” They, however, must be adapted to the different situations of the particular Churches around the world. It could also be a group of several jurisdictions, an ecclesial region or even at the national level.
Celebrated on Solemnity of Christ the King
On 22 November 2020 – the Solemnity of Christ the King, Pope Francis called for a relaunch of the celebration of WYD in the particular Churches. The Pope announced that the celebration, traditionally held on Palm Sunday will now be held on the Sunday of the Solemnity of Christ the King, starting from 2021.
Tracing a link between these two liturgical celebrations, the document notes that on Palm Sunday, the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem is that of a “king, gentle and riding on a donkey” (Mt 21:5) and acclaimed as Messiah by the crowd: “Hosanna to the son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” The evangelist Luke even adds the title “King” to the crowd’s acclamation, emphasizing that the Messiah is also King (Lk 19:38).
In this light, the key proclamation that must be addressed to young people, and must be at the center of every diocesan WYD celebrated on the Solemnity of Christ the King is to “receive Christ! Welcome him as King into your lives! He is a King who came to save! Without him there is no true peace, no true inner reconciliation and no true reconciliation with others! Without his Kingdom, society too loses its human face. Without the Kingdom of Christ, all true fraternity and all genuine proximity to those who suffer will disappear.”
More so, Pope Francis notes that at the heart of the two liturgical celebrations lies “the Mystery of Jesus Christ the Redeemer of humankind” and the core message is that the full stature of humankind stems from love that gives itself to others “right to the end”.
The Dicastery thus invites dioceses and eparchies to celebrate the WYD on the Solemnity of Christ the King, placing young people at the center of pastoral attention, praying for them, engaging them as protagonists to promote communications campaigns, among other things. Dioceses are also to consider the celebrations as part of a “broader pastoral journey of which WYD is only one stage” in line with Pope Francis’ recommendation that “youth ministry has to be synodal; it should involve journeying together.”
WYD – festival of faith
The Pastoral guidelines also explored six cornerstones that are to be at the heart of the WYD
“WYD offers young people a lively and joyful experience of faith and communion, a space to experience the beauty of the face of God.” Since at the heart of a life of faith is our encounter with Jesus, every WYD should “resound with the invitation for each young person to meet Christ and enter into a personal dialogue with him,” the guidelines note.
In this regard, the programme of the international WYD can inspire the local celebration where it can be creatively adapted to include particular attention to “moments of silent adoration of the Eucharist as an act of faith par excellence, and to penitential liturgies as a special place of encounter with God’s mercy.”
Experience of Church
The guidelines stress that WYD be an occasion for “young people to experience ecclesial communion and to grow in their awareness of being an integral part of the Church.”
To achieve this, the first way to involve young people is to “listen to them” and find “appropriate times and ways for the voices of young people to be heard within the existing structures of communion: diocesan/eparchial and inter-diocesan/eparchial councils, presbyteral councils, local councils of bishops.”
There should also be room for the various charisms present in the jurisdiction alongside the young people for a more participatory and co-responsible Church where no one is excluded or exclude themselves. “In this way, it will be possible to gather and coordinate all the dynamic forces of the particular Church, as well as to reawaken those that are dormant,” the document notes.
At the same time, “the presence of the local Bishop and his willingness to be among the young people show them a clear sign of love and closeness” in the pastoral style of proximity encouraged by Pope Francis.
WYD at the international level has proved to be an excellent opportunity for young people to have a missionary experience, the guidelines note.
On this, it stresses that this must also be the case for diocesan/eparchial Youth Days where missions can be organised which encourage young people to visit people in their homes carrying “a message of hope, a word of comfort or simply being willing to listen.” Their enthusiasm can also be harnessed to “allow them to lead occasions of public evangelisation with songs, prayer and testimonies. They can go to streets and squares in the city where their peers meet, because young people are the best evangelisers of young people.”
“Their very presence and their joyful faith already constitute a “living proclamation” of the Good News that attracts other young people,” the guidelines say, adding that “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’.”
Vocational discernment and call to holiness
The guidelines also encourage priority for the vocation dimension of the WYD, which aims to help young people “understand that their whole life is placed before God who loves them and calls them.”
When they have come to terms with these “fundamental vocations” within the broader “vocational horizons”, young people can be proposed “the choice that must be made of a state of life, one that is in accord with the call that God is addressing to each of them individually, whether it be to the priesthood or the consecrated life, including in the monastic form, or marriage and family.”
In this regard, seminarians, consecrated persons, married couples and families can be of help and “by their presence and witness, they can help to prompt young people to ask the right vocational questions and to desire to set out in search of the “great plan” that God has in mind for them.
Meanwhile, “every vocational choice must have at its heart the even more profound call to holiness. WYD must resonate in young people the call to holiness as the true path to happiness and self-fulfilment,” the guidelines insist.
Experience of pilgrimage
The pastoral guidelines also recommend that diocesan/eparchial WYD celebrations can propose specific ways for young people to have real pilgrimage experiences – ones that encourage them to “leave their homes and set out on a journey, and on the way they are introduced to the sweat and toil of the journey, the fatigue of the body and the joy of the spirit.”
“All this is of vital importance at the present time because many young people risk isolating themselves in virtual unreal worlds, far from the dusty roads and streets of the world,” the document notes, adding that “it is often through pilgrimage together that we make new friends, and we experience the excitement of sharing the same ideals as we look together towards a common goal with mutual support in difficulties and the joy of sharing the little we have.”
WYD is, therefore, a great opportunity for younger generations “to explore local shrines and other significant places of popular piety” bearing in mind that “various manifestations of popular piety, especially pilgrimages, attract young people who do not readily feel at home in ecclesial structures, and represent a concrete sign of their trust in God.”
While emphasizing the importance of involving young people in all steps of the pastoral planning for the WYD, the guidelines note that ‘the testimony and experience of young people who have previously taken part in an international WYD deserve to be highlighted in the preparation of the diocesan/eparchial event.”
The guidelines encourage dioceses and eparchies to “ensure that young people who are less present and less active in established pastoral structures do not feel excluded” so that they feel “expected and welcome, each one in their individual uniqueness and human and spiritual potential.”
In this way, “the diocesan/eparchial event can be a very good opportunity to motivate and welcome all those young people who may be looking for their place in the Church and who have not yet found it.”