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Deacon-structing WYD: The Beginning

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Last week I shared a bit of my WYD experience and how this event can (and does) change so many people’s lives. But many are not familiar with the history of World Youth Days nor with the reasons behind it.

During the pontificate of Paul VI, the Church was trying to figure out how to make this whole youth thing make sense. Someone suggested inviting youth to Rome for an “encounter” but nothing ever came of it. There is also a rumour that John Paul II, after being elected Pope, was on retreat near Assisi during a youth gathering called “Giovanni Verso Assisi,” “Youth Towards Assisi”. I was in Assisi for this same gathering in 2001 – there were some 3000 young people from all over Italy. It was like a mini-WYD. They say that this original gathering gave JPII an idea.

As it turns out, in 1984, the Holy Year of Redemption, JPII invited youth from around the world to come to Rome, to St. Peter’s Square, for Palm Sunday. Skeptics predicted that perhaps some 30 kids would show up and publicly proclaim their faith. On the contrary, some 300,000 came! On this occasion, John Paul II gave the youth of the world a simple wooden cross – the cross that has become the symbol, the Olympic torch, for World Youth Days. If we are to deacon-struct WYD, we have to start with the Cross.

For one year before each WYD, this Cross travels around the host country visiting schools, jails, malls, old-age homes, nightclubs… those places which most need the Cross.

Here in Canada, the Cross went from east coast to west coast, to north coast, travelling by car, truck, bus, plane, boat, sailboat, canoe, snowmobile and helicopter, and went into the most remote communities in the country – even those places where there are no roads. The WYD Cross brought the country together in ways that nothing else had before. For the last 40 days of the Cross’ journey, it was brought on foot, from Montrèal to Toronto. While it traveled through towns and villages, groups of young people, adults and children would join on the pilgrimage – they would take turns carrying it – praying with it. The Cross is one of the reasons for WYD. But not so much the Cross that reminds us of the suffering and passion. Instead, the Cross without which there is no redemption, no salvation and no resurrection!

1985 was declared the International Year of Youth by the United Nations. John Paul II thought that it would be appropriate to, once again invite the youth back to Rome. This time many more came. Why? What did that old man have that attracted the youth so much? John Paul II was the only living person who could gather so many people in one place – no rock star has been able to gather so many people at one time. In Toronto 800,000 came to celebrate the Closing Mass with the Holy Father. That day, Downsview Park became the 7th largest city in Canada. For WYD 2000 in Rome, during the Year of the Jubilee, 2 million people attended the Closing Mass. In the Philippines in 1995, 5 million people were with JPII for the WYD Final Mass! Popes Benedict and Francis definitely continued with this ability to gather youth: 1.5 million were with Pope Benedict at the Final Mass in Madrid and 3 million gathered in Copacabana Beach for the Final Mass with Pope Francis for Rio 2013. 2.5 million are expected at the Final Mass in Krakow.

Nowadays with Pope Francis we normally here the cheers of “Viva el Papa”. Many of us can remember the shouts of “Benedetto” but do you remember the young crowds cheering, “John Paul II, we love you”? Often he would respond, “John Paul II, he loves you.” John Paul II used to say that he loved young people. I think it was much more. JPII understood that the youth are not the Church of tomorrow: They are the Church of today. When he met them, he encountered the Church of today. At the same time, the youth, when meeting with the Pope, with any Pope, meet with the hierarchical Church and can connect with the tradition and structure of the Church. That’s another reason why young people come to WYD: to meet with the Pope and with the Church. The motto of World Youth Days since its beginning has been The Pope and Young People Together. So at WYDs we have a meeting of the Lay Church with the Hierarchical Church, under the Cross.

Next week, let’s look at the pilgrimage aspect of WYD.


Photo Credit: Young people from Brazil, left, pass on the World Youth Day cross to youths from Poland, right, at the conclusion of Pope Francis’ celebration of Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican April 13. (Photo: Paul Haring/CNS)


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Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching: pedro@saltandlighttv.org

Less than a month to World Youth Day – Perspectives

The Vatican releases a statement about the case of Bishop Ma of Shanghai. We’re less than a month away from WYD Krakow and have the latest updates, and full details on our coverage of the papal visit of Armenia.

Deacon-structing WYD: The Kingdom of God

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Often, when I speak to young people, I’ll start by asking where they are from: Is there anyone here from Ottawa or Quebec? How about anyone from the States? This usually gets the groups cheering as I call out their home town. But when I ask, “who is from the Kingdom of Heaven?” not everyone puts up their hand. And that’s exactly my point: Not all of us think we are worthy to belong to the Kingdom of Heaven.

Let me explain: If we are all sons and daughters of God, made in the image of God, then, by definition, we are members of the family of God. And if we are members of the family of God, then we belong in the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is the Kingdom of Heaven. Get it?

And who lives in the Kingdom of Heaven? The Saints, right? So, if we belong to the Kingdom of Heaven, then, by logical deduction, we are saints. All of us!

It’s true. You may not like the idea that you are being created to be a saint, but you are. The calling is not to be something that we are not; the calling is to say “yes” to that for which we are created. Saint John Paul II already told us: “Do not be afraid to be the saints of the new millennium.”

Me too. I’m just an ordinary Catholic, from an ordinary Panamanian family. I belonged to a youth group and Church choir. Even when I left home at age 16, I continued to go to Mass on Sundays. I never really strayed from the Church. I can’t say that I understood Church teachings, but I never really doubted the Faith. Still, like many other “ordinary” Catholics, although I’d always been in the Church and I always “followed” Jesus Christ, I had never had a real close personal encounter with Jesus Christ. Well, I’d had them, I just hadn’t recognised them.

Why? Because having a personal encounter with Christ almost always leads to a calling. Yes, I’d had encounters, but none had really led to a calling, until I came to work at the National Office for the World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto.

I was the Artistic Director for WYD 2002, in charge of all artistic programming for the event: all music, dance and dramatic expression. For the Youth Festival we coordinated the participation of almost 200 groups, from 35 different countries, in eight different languages, with a total of some 400 performances. I also coordinated the production of the official WYD 2002 Souvenir CD album and all the dance and music for all the main events with Pope John Paul II. It was an unforgettable experience filled with many blessings. I’ve never been so busy nor have I slept so little! But, at the same time, I never felt super stressed, nor that the whole world was caving in. I never lost hope. I always knew that this was God’s work and that He was in charge. And it was in that small detail, that something inside of me changed.

I worked 20 months for the WYD 2002 Office – for me that was a time of many challenges and frustrations, yet at the same time, of incredible peace and joy. My experience with WYD was one of the Beatitudes: Blessed are the frustrated, those who have no money, those who don’t have enough time in the day and too much work to do… Blessed are those who are hungry. Blessed are those who got lost and never made it to their Catechesis sessions – those who didn’t eat because the food ran out, those who were dirty, wet, sleepy, cold or too hot, suffering from sun stroke – Blessed are those who were dehydrated… Those who had to raise thousands of dollars to buy a plane ticket only to have their visa applications denied… Blessed are they, for the Kingdom of God is theirs.

In just about a month, hundreds of thousands of young people will be traveling to Krakow, Poland for the 30th WYD. But why? Why spend so much money and travel so far? Why go through the discomfort of crowds, only to end up so far away from the stage or a screen and not see anything – why get soaked in the rain and be hungry? Why all this suffering? Why were we called to “make the streets resound with the joy and love of Christ”? Can’t we be salt and light right here at home without going to World Youth Day?

Over the next few weeks I will be sharing with you why World Youth Day came about and why it is so important for our Church, so keep coming back. Next week, “The Beginning.”


Photo Credit: Mexican pilgrims march down Atlantic Avenue along Copacabana beach for the the opening Mass of World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro July 23, 2013. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)


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Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching: pedro@saltandlighttv.org

Programme of Pope Francis’ visit to Poland for the 31st World Youth Day

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Vatican City, 9 June 2016 The programme for the Holy Father’s apostolic trip to Poland, on the occasion of the celebration of the 31st World Youth Day from 27 to 31 July this year, was published today.
 
The Pope will depart from Rome’s Fiumicino airport at 2 p.m. and will arrive at the John Paul II airport of Balice-Krakow two hours later. After the welcome ceremony he will transfer to the Castle of Wawel, where he will address the civil authorities and diplomatic corps, followed by a courtesy visit to the president of the Republic. The Pope’s first day in Poland will conclude with a meeting with bishops in Krakow Cathedral.
 
In the early morning of Thursday 28 July he will visit the Convent of the Sisters of the Presentation on the way to the airport, and at 8.30 a.m. he will transfer by helicopter to Czestochowa where, in the monastery of Jasna Gora, he will pray in the chapel of the Black Virgin before celebrating Holy Mass in the Shrine of Czestochowa on the occasion of the 1,050th anniversary of the baptism of Poland. At 12.45 p.m. he will return to Krakow where he will address the young people gathered in Jordan Park.
 
On Friday 29 July he will transfer by helicopter to Oswiecim. At 9.30 he will visit Auschwitz and at 10.30 the camp of Birkenau, returning to Krakow where at 4.30 p.m. he will meet patients at the university paediatric hospital, and at 6 p.m. he will preside at the Via Crucis with young people in Jordan Park.
 
On Saturday he will visit the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Krakow, where he will pass through the Door of Divine Mercy and confess several young people. After, at 10.30, he will celebrate Holy Mass for Polish priests, men and women religious, consecrated persons and seminarians in the St. John Paul II Shrine of Krakow. The Pope will lunch with several young people in the archiepiscopal residence and then in the evening will pass through the Holy Door in the Campus Misericordiae with various young people. There, at 7.30 p.m., he will give the opening address of the prayer vigil.
 
On Sunday 31 July, Francis will celebrate Mass for World Youth Day in the Campus Misericordiae, after which, at 5 p.m., he will greet the WYD volunteers, organising committee and benefactors in the Tauron Arena in Krakow. He will depart by air at 6.30 p.m., destined for Rome’s Ciampino airport, where he is expected to arrive at 8.25 p.m.

Check out Pope Francis’ WYD Itinerary – Perspectives

Today on Perspectives: We have the pope’s World Youth Day itinerary, plus the latest updates from the WYD team in Krakow and details on some thing you won’t want to miss.

New Rules to Remove Negligent Bishops – Perspectives


Pope Francis has created new rules to remove bishops who fail to handle sex abuse cases properly. We have details. Plus, the church has two new saints and over 500 young people from the Toronto area prepare to head to Poland for World Youth Day.

Pope Leads Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius – Perspectives


Today on Perspectives, Pope Francis leads the priests of the world in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Igantius, we look at one Canadian community’s mission work, and find out how Krakow is preparing for World Youth Day.

Ignoring the call of worldly things – Perspectives

On today’s edition of Perspectives, Pope Francis has some pointed words about the lure of worldly things like power and vanity. We have an update on World Youth Day from the organizing committee in Krakow. And if you’re in Vancouver you’ll want to hear the details of our upcoming fundraiser in Vancouver.

Reflections of his Light: The Journey of His Holiness John Paul II and the World Youth Day Cross in Canada

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All proceeds from the purchase of this book are to make possible Salt + Light‘s coverage of the World Youth Day in Kraków, Poland in July of 2016.

Throughout Pope John Paul II’s papacy, youth has been a priority. When he was elected Pope in 1978, John Paul II said that young people are the future of the world and the hope for the Church.

At the end of the Jubilee Year of the Redemption in 1984, the Pope invited young people to a special gathering in Rome on Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter. Three hundred thousand young people attended.

It was at this celebration that the Pope entrusted the Holy Year Cross to the youth of the world. This cross is now known as the World Youth Day Cross. It has visited all the countries where WYDs have been held. In 1985 – the United Nations International Year of Youth – Pope john Paul II extended a second invitation to young people. This time, 4500,000 attended on Palm Sunday in Rome.

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These events inspired the Pope to create WYD, which brings together young Catholics from around the world to celebrate their faith. WYD is an encounter of the youth of the world with the Holy Father and the Christian community of the host country. With a renewed faith in Jesus Christ, young people go out into the world to be witnesses to the Gospel.
The first WYD was held in Rome in 1985 on Palm Sunday. Since then, WYD celebrations have been held in Argentina, Spain, Poland, the United States, the Philippines, France and again in Italy.
At the conclusion of WYD 2000 in Rome, Pope John Paul II announced that Canada would host in 2002 in Toronto from July 23 to 28th.
The theme would be, “You are the salt of the Earth, You are the light of the World” (Matthew 5.13-14)
This book is about the Journey of His Holiness John Paul II and the World Youth Day Cross in Canada.
 

My John Paul II Memories

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I have many memories of April 2, 2005, when St. John Paul II died after a lengthy illness and much suffering.

I remember the succession of news reports the evening before his death,  people praying in St. Peter’s Square and the shared sense of concern and sadness that most people felt; this was not limited just to the faithful.

A few days earlier, on March 30, he made his last public appearance. It was a quick glimpse with no words, but only a breath. Amid all the suffering, there was also profound dignity, as he maintained his position and role, in any way he could, until the last moment. I was at home when the news of his death was made official by Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro-Valls on Saturday, April 2, after 9:30 pm.

The funeral followed six days later. There was a unanimous cry, and strong desire among people to see Karol Wojtyla made a saint. I remember this chant everywhere; in newspapers, shouting from the crowds – a continuous repetition.

Three million mourners descended upon Rome for the biggest funeral ever, and the capital city responded perfectly, with an efficiency never before seen. I remember the chaos around the city. It was impossible to take the subway enroute to school as Termini Station was sieged by pilgrims and people trying to navigate their way through the Vatican. A huge crowd converged at St. Peter’s Square, to give a final farewell to the beloved Pope. The day of the funeral, Friday, April 8th, was declared a day of mourning in Rome. Schools were closed and all eyes turned to the Vatican where the future pope, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, celebrated the funeral.

Among the many recollections I have of Pope John Paul II, there are two that particularly stand out from my childhood.The first dates back to 1997, a few weeks after my first communion, in the same parish where I received the Eucharist, the Holy Father came to visit. For us children, but especially for those of us who just recently received our first communion, there were special seats near the altar. What a great privilege to be in such close proximity that I had a chance to shake hands with the Pope, who greeted me with a smile on his face.

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The second moment occurred three years later, on the occasion of World Youth Day at Tor Vergata. It took place in front of the  home where I would eventually spend my  wonderful years at university.

I remember the human tide that was able to fill the vast plain of Tor Vergata, as well as the steady stream of young people who passed by me on their journey to see the Pope that night.

As residents in the area, our family had received a special pass three days earlier from mayor Francesco Rutelli, a pass that allowed us to move freely in our neighborhood without restriction and among areas designated for young faithful.
I remember that long night of August 19th at Tor Vergata,  sitting on the lawn with my father and my aunt. I remember a smiling and joyful Pope John Paul II  and  the contagious, youthful passion, music and incredible party atmosphere we took in.

For eighteen years of my life, he was Pope. He was a man, who unlike others, had such impact on contemporary history and changed the course of events. In Krakow, where the next World Youth Day will be held in his honor, the feeling of his presence is felt everywhere.  One can sense his imposing spirituality, charisma, and ability as an incredible religious leader.

In 27 years of his pontificate,  he has been able to accomplish a huge breakthrough for the Church, as well as to how to live within the church. It is hard to think that there might be someone equally decisive in so many aspects that will be a future Pope.  It is hard to believe that there may be someone who could make a mark on  world  history as Karol Józef Wojtyla from Wadowice did.


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Matteo Ciofi is an Italian producer for Salt + Light. Follow him on Twitter!