You are witnesses to joy!


“You have an important part in the celebration of faith! You bring us the joy of faith and you tell us that we must live the faith with a young heart, always: a young heart, even at the age of seventy or eighty. Dear young people! With Christ, the heart never grows old!” These are the first words that Pope Francis addressed to young people, five days after his election, Palm Sunday last year. This was quoted by Bishop Josef Clemens, secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, in the keynote address on Saturday. The topic of his talk was  “The Church's commitment to the young: from John Paul II to Pope Francis”. Bishop Clemens spoke of a journey in three stages that followed the three popes: John Paul II who said that the young were the hope of the Church; Benedict XVI who placed emphasis on the challenges of education; and Pope Francis who attracted much enthusiasm among young people and also emphasised the message of his predecessors by placing a missionary drive at the centre: “Go without fear to serve”.

The International Meeting on WYD took Saturday as a day to study and reflect on youth ministry. The keynote address was followed by accounts of experiences in the field under the title, “Church, where are you?” - Young people's expectations. The first speaker on the panel was Rev. Daniel Ange, founder of the Jeunesse Lumière school of prayer and evangelisation. After many years in Africa and then in a hermitage, he felt a strong call to take the Gospel to the world of youth. He said that youth themselves were the best witnesses to God for their contemporaries. Jeunesse Lumière offers young people a sabbatical year to experience community life, prayer and mission. The starting point is mercy, the force of love that is challenged by poverty, suffering and the evil that surrounds those who love each other more than the things of this world.

Chiara Amirante spoke of her experience with simplicity and passion. She is the founder of the Nuovi Orizzonti Community who give assistance, a listening ear and hospitality to the very poor, drug addicts, prostitutes, unmarried mothers, alcoholics, street children and ex-prisoners. They descend to the underworld of “the people of the night” in order to transform them into “knights of the light”, street evangelisers.

Dr. Bernhard Meuser, promoter and co-author of Youcat, told the story of this little yellow book that is familiar to WYD youth all over the world. It is more than a book. It is also catechetical centres, radio, television and even a bar in Barcelona. This all arose from the simple idea of translating the Catechism of the Catholic Church into a style that would be suitable for young people today. Indeed, it was compiled together with young people.

Among the many voices we heard from every continent, there was news from Rev. Michel Emery, vice-secretary of the Council of the Bishops' Conferences of Europe. He announced that there would be a meeting in December of European youth leaders, organised together with the Pontifical Council for the Laity. The theme will be based on Pope Francis’ first encyclical, Evangelii Gaudium.

Cardinal Rylko concluded the meeting by summing up the process of the three days: “On the first day we recalled WYD in Rio, a vivid memory for all of us. I remember Cardinal Tempesta’s words: ‘In Rio we saw God at work’. We have heard testimonies about the miracles worked by the WYD Cross, and especially about the desire of young people to touch the Cross. Pope Benedict XVI said that ‘you have to touch the cross in order to be touched by the cross’. We must help and encourage young people to touch the cross so that they will be touched by Christ who was crucified and rose again. John Paul II understood this immediately. He did not hesitate to put the WYD Cross at the centre. Youth ministry must learn from this”.

“On the second day we started out on a new stage, Krakow 2016. It is good to witness the birth of a new WYD. All WYDs are the same, but each one has its own characteristics and identity which can surprise us... Every new birth brings joy and expectation and so much hope”.

“Finally, today, a day on which we placed emphasis on the question, ‘Church, where are you?’, I would like us all to understand the relationship that exists between everyday youth ministry and WYD. It is not that youth ministry serves WYD. It is quite the opposite. WYD is an opportunity to be recharged spiritually for the engagement of the Church. It is a healthy provocation for our work with youth. Youth ministry should bring new ideas and renewed courage to challenge young people. They like to be challenged with demanding proposals. All of you who are returning home after these three days of spiritual retreat now feel committed to doing even more in your everyday work with young people. Pope Francis has much to say and teach about youth ministry. Let us take his encyclical Evangelii Gaudium as a guide. It is written in simple direct language that touches the heart.”

“I would like to suggest that the outcome of this meeting can be summed up in three words:

1. You are all witnesses of joy. Pope Francis would say that the youth of today have the right to receive the proclamation of the Gospel from joyful witnesses who are full of enthusiasm. A sad evangeliser convinces no one, much less young people.

2. Passion. What does it mean to work with young people with passion? It means to give ourselves fully to this important task – to give the best of ourselves without holding back. Young people watch us closely. They know where our heart lies, and if we are really with them or elsewhere. We must reawaken our passion for young people.

3. Pope Francis often returns to the word ‘concern’. Everyone who works in ministry, every evangeliser must feel a healthy missionary concern.

A Christian who is called to evangelise is always concerned and unsatisfied, always seeking new ways. They do not simply conform to reality.

Keep your ability to be daring in your work with youth. Give them high goals and standards, like those in the Gospel”.

The cardinal concluded by reminding delegates of the important meeting they would have the following day in the company of the pope. The WYD Cross would be handed over by the Brazilian youth to the Polish youth. It would also be the thirtieth anniversary of the occasion when John Paul II entrusted the Cross to young people.

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On 1 September 2016 the

Pontifical Council for the Laity
ceased its activities.
Its responsibilities and duties
have been taken over by the
Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life.