Message of Pope Francis for the 29th World Youth Day 2014

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Vatican City, 6 February 2014 (VIS) – We publish below the full text of the message the Holy Father has sent to the young people preparing for the 29th World Youth Day 2014, which will take as its theme: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”.

Dear Young Friends,

How vividly I recall the remarkable meeting we had in Rio de Janeiro for the Twenty-eighth World Youth Day. It was a great celebration of faith and fellowship! The wonderful people of Brazil welcomed us with open arms, like the statue of Christ the Redeemer which looks down from the hill of Corcovado over the magnificent expanse of Copacabana beach. There, on the seashore, Jesus renewed his call to each one of us to become his missionary disciples. May we perceive this call as the most important thing in our lives and share this gift with others, those near and far, even to the distant geographical and existential peripheries of our world.

The next stop on our intercontinental youth pilgrimage will be in Krakow in 2016. As a way of accompanying our journey together, for the next three years I would like to reflect with you on the Beatitudes found in the Gospel of Saint Matthew. This year we will begin by reflecting on the first Beatitude: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’. For 2015 I suggest: ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God’. Then, in 2016, our theme will be: ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy’.

1. The revolutionary power of the Beatitudes

It is always a joyful experience for us to read and reflect on the Beatitudes! Jesus proclaimed them in his first great sermon, preached on the shore of the sea of Galilee. There was a very large crowd, so Jesus went up on the mountain to teach his disciples. That is why it is known as ‘the Sermon on the Mount’. In the Bible, the mountain is regarded as a place where God reveals himself. Jesus, by preaching on the mount, reveals himself to be a divine teacher, a new Moses. What does he tell us? He shows us the way to life, the way that he himself has taken. Jesus himself is the way, and he proposes this way as the path to true happiness. Throughout his life, from his birth in the stable in Bethlehem until his death on the cross and his resurrection, Jesus embodied the Beatitudes. All the promises of God’s Kingdom were fulfilled in him.

In proclaiming the Beatitudes, Jesus asks us to follow him and to travel with him along the path of love, the path that alone leads to eternal life. It is not an easy journey, yet the Lord promises us his grace and he never abandons us. We face so many challenges in life: poverty, distress, humiliation, the struggle for justice, persecutions, the difficulty of daily conversion, the effort to remain faithful to our call to holiness, and many others. But if we open the door to Jesus and allow him to be part of our lives, if we share our joys and sorrows with him, then we will experience the peace and joy that only God, who is infinite love, can give.

The Beatitudes of Jesus are new and revolutionary. They present a model of happiness contrary to what is usually communicated by the media and by the prevailing wisdom. A worldly way of thinking finds it scandalous that God became one of us and died on a cross! According to the logic of this world, those whom Jesus proclaimed blessed are regarded as useless, ‘losers’. What is glorified is success at any cost, affluence, the arrogance of power and self-affirmation at the expense of others.

Jesus challenges us, young friends, to take seriously his approach to life and to decide which path is right for us and leads to true joy. This is the great challenge of faith. Jesus was not afraid to ask his disciples if they truly wanted to follow him or if they preferred to take another path. Simon Peter had the courage to reply: ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life’. If you too are able to say ‘yes’ to Jesus, your lives will become both meaningful and fruitful.

2. The courage to be happy

What does it mean to be ‘blessed’ (makarioi in Greek)? To be blessed means to be happy. Tell me: Do you really want to be happy? In an age when we are constantly being enticed by vain and empty illusions of happiness, we risk settling for less and ‘thinking small’ when it come to the meaning of life. Think big instead! Open your hearts! As Blessed Piergiorgio Frassati once said, ‘To live without faith, to have no heritage to uphold, to fail to struggle constantly to defend the truth: this is not living. It is scraping by. We should never just scrape by, but really live’ (Letter to I. Bonini, 27 February 1925). In his homily on the day of Piergiorgio Frassati’s beatification (20 May 1990), John Paul II called him ‘a man of the Beatitudes’ (AAS 82 [1990], 1518).

If you are really open to the deepest aspirations of your hearts, you will realize that you possess an unquenchable thirst for happiness, and this will allow you to expose and reject the ‘low cost’ offers and approaches all around you. When we look only for success, pleasure and possessions, and we turn these into idols, we may well have moments of exhilaration, an illusory sense of satisfaction, but ultimately we become enslaved, never satisfied, always looking for more. It is a tragic thing to see a young person who ‘has everything’, but is weary and weak.

Saint John, writing to young people, told them: ‘You are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one’. oung people who choose Christ are strong: they are fed by his word and they do not need to ‘stuff themselves’ with other things! Have the courage to swim against the tide. Have the courage to be truly happy! Say no to an ephemeral, superficial and throwaway culture, a culture that assumes that you are incapable of taking on responsibility and facing the great challenges of life!

3. Blessed are the poor in spirit…

The first Beatitude, our theme for the next World Youth Day, says that the poor in spirit are blessed for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. At a time when so many people are suffering as a result of the financial crisis, it might seem strange to link poverty and happiness. How can we consider poverty a blessing?

First of all, let us try to understand what it means to be ‘poor in spirit’. When the Son of God became man, he chose the path of poverty and self-emptying. As Saint Paul said in his letter to the Philippians: ‘Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in human likeness’. Jesus is God who strips himself of his glory. Here we see God’s choice to be poor: he was rich and yet he became poor in order to enrich us through his poverty. His is the mystery we contemplate in the crib when we see the Son of God lying in a manger, and later on the cross, where his self-emptying reaches its culmination.

The Greek adjective ptochos (poor) does not have a purely material meaning. It means ‘a beggar’, and it should be seen as linked to the Jewish notion of the anawim, ‘God’s poor’. It suggests lowliness, a sense of one’s limitations and existential poverty. The anawim trust in the Lord, and they know that they can count on him.

As Saint Therese of the Child Jesus clearly saw, by his incarnation Jesus came among us as a poor beggar, asking for our love. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that ‘man is a beggar before God’ and that prayer is the encounter of God’s thirst and our own thirst.

Saint Francis of Assisi understood perfectly the secret of the Beatitude of the poor in spirit. Indeed, when Jesus spoke to him through the leper and from the crucifix, Francis recognized both God’s grandeur and his own lowliness. In his prayer, the Poor Man of Assisi would spend hours asking the Lord: ‘Who are you?’ ‘Who am I?’ He renounced an affluent and carefree life in order to marry ‘Lady Poverty’, to imitate Jesus and to follow the Gospel to the letter. Francis lived in imitation of Christ in his poverty and in love for the poor – for him the two were inextricably linked – like two sides of one coin.

You might ask me, then: What can we do, specifically, to make poverty in spirit a way of life, a real part of our own lives? I will reply by saying three things.

First of all, try to be free with regard to material things. The Lord calls us to a Gospel lifestyle marked by sobriety, by a refusal to yield to the culture of consumerism. This means being concerned with the essentials and learning to do without all those unneeded extras which hem us in. Let us learn to be detached from possessiveness and from the idolatry of money and lavish spending. Let us put Jesus first. He can free us from the kinds of idol-worship which enslave us. Put your trust in God, dear young friends! He knows and loves us, and he never forgets us. Just as he provides for the lilies of the field, so he will make sure that we lack nothing. If we are to come through the financial crisis, we must be also ready to change our lifestyle and avoid so much wastefulness. Just as we need the courage to be happy, we also need the courage to live simply.

Second, if we are to live by this Beatitude, all of us need to experience a conversion in the way we see the poor. We have to care for them and be sensitive to their spiritual and material needs. To you young people I especially entrust the task of restoring solidarity to the heart of human culture. Faced with old and new forms of poverty – unemployment, migration and addictions of various kinds – we have the duty to be alert and thoughtful, avoiding the temptation to remain indifferent. We have to remember all those who feel unloved, who have no hope for the future and who have given up on life out of discouragement, disappointment or fear. We have to learn to be on the side of the poor, and not just indulge in rhetoric about the poor! Let us go out to meet them, look into their eyes and listen to them. The poor provide us with a concrete opportunity to encounter Christ himself, and to touch his suffering flesh.

However – and this is my third point – the poor are not just people to whom we can give something. They have much to offer us and to teach us. How much we have to learn from the wisdom of the poor! Think about it: several hundred years ago a saint, Benedict Joseph Labre, who lived on the streets of Rome from the alms he received, became a spiritual guide to all sorts of people, including nobles and prelates. In a very real way, the poor are our teachers. They show us that people’s value is not measured by their possessions or how much money they have in the bank. A poor person, a person lacking material possessions, always maintains his or her dignity. The poor can teach us much about humility and trust in God. In the parable of the pharisee and the tax-collector, Jesus holds the tax-collector up as a model because of his humility and his acknowledgement that he is a sinner. The widow who gave her last two coins to the temple treasury is an example of the generosity of all those who have next to nothing and yet give away everything they have.

4. … for theirs is the kingdom of heaven

The central theme of the Gospel is the kingdom of God. Jesus is the kingdom of God in person; he is Immanuel, God-with-us. And it is in the human heart that the kingdom, God’s sovereignty, takes root and grows. The kingdom is at once both gift and promise. It has already been given to us in Jesus, but it has yet to be realised in its fullness. That is why we pray to the Father each day: ‘Thy kingdom come’.

There is a close connection between poverty and evangelisation, between the theme of the last World Youth Day – ‘Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations!’ – and the theme for this year: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’. The Lord wants a poor Church which evangelises the poor. When Jesus sent the Twelve out on mission, he said to them: ‘Take no gold, nor silver, nor copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor a staff; for the labourers deserve their food’. Evangelical poverty is a basic condition for spreading the kingdom of God. The most beautiful and spontaneous expressions of joy which I have seen during my life were by poor people who had little to hold onto. Evangelisation in our time will only take place as the result of contagious joy.

We have seen, then, that the Beatitude of the poor in spirit shapes our relationship with God, with material goods and with the poor. With the example and words of Jesus before us, we realize how much we need to be converted, so that the logic of being more will prevail over that of having more! The saints can best help us to understand the profound meaning of the Beatitudes. So the canonization of John Paul II, to be celebrated on the Second Sunday of Easter, will be an event marked by immense joy. He will be the great patron of the World Youth Days which he inaugurated and always supported. In the communion of saints he will continue to be a father and friend to all of you.

This month of April marks the thirtieth anniversary of the entrustment of the Jubilee Cross of the Redemption to the young. That symbolic act by John Paul II was the beginning of the great youth pilgrimage which has since crossed the five continents. The Pope’s words on that Easter Sunday in 1984 remain memorable: ‘My dear young people, at the conclusion of the Holy Year, I entrust to you the sign of this Jubilee Year: the cross of Christ! Carry it throughout the world as a symbol of the love of the Lord Jesus for humanity, and proclaim to everyone that it is only in Christ, who died and rose from the dead, that salvation and redemption are to be found’.

Dear friends, the Magnificat, the Canticle of Mary, poor in spirit, is also the song of everyone who lives by the Beatitudes. The joy of the Gospel arises from a heart which, in its poverty, rejoices and marvels at the works of God, like the heart of Our Lady, whom all generations call ‘blessed’. May Mary, Mother of the poor and Star of the new evangelisation help us to live the Gospel, to embody the Beatitudes in our lives, and to have the courage always to be happy.

Six months with Pope Francis

Pope Francis enjoying the crowd
Recently I looked at something I wrote six months ago when Pope Francis had just been elected. Someone had asked me if he was going to be a progressive pope. My response was that I thought Pope Francis would be taking the Church where she needs to go.

What I have found most surprising of the last six months is that everyone is so surprised. “Pope Francis goes to Mass at a local Parish.” “Pope Francis chooses to live at Casa Santa Marta.” “Pope Francis celebrates Holy Thursday at a local detention centre and washes the feet of Muslims and women!” “Pope Francis rides in an open pope-mobile.” “Pope Francis carries his own briefcase!” “…calls newspaper vendor; …owns a cell phone; …phones young man who wrote to him; …cracks a joke.. laughs…” and so it goes. Every day there’s a new surprise.

But this to me is not surprising. This is what it means to be a pastor. It’s what most priests that I knew growing up where like. It’s what we call being present. In Latin America we call it “acompañar” or walking with. It’s how the clergy is supposed to relate to the laity. We walk with them; we are present to them; we are with them. In fact, it’s how all people are supposed to relate to others!

And, it’s no surprise that Francis’ big thing is going to the peripheries; opening the doors of the Church, not so people can come in, but so that we can go out: Go out to the streets! Come down from the balconies; get out of the sacristies… And we don’t need a program of evangelisation in order to do that. All we need is to not be afraid, to be authentic and to be present: “Go; without fear; to serve.

After WYD 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Panamanian Archbishop José Domingo Ulloa spoke with local journalists: “After Rio, the Church, and especially the young people who make their pilgrimage through her, cannot be the same.” He said that during WYD he saw how a “new way to live the episcopate and the presbiterate” was emerging. He added that, “young people taught [the bishops] that they want and expect shepherds that are closer, less distant and cold.” He concluded by saying that from now on, bishops, priests and deacons are “moved to build a relationship of closeness with the people and with youth.”

Is this progressive? I don’t think so. Is it Church? Absolutely! It is that Apostolic Church that Jesus founded with one mission: To Go and make disciples of all nations and proclaim the Good News to all creation.

That’s not where the Church needs to go. The Church has always been there; that’s where we need to go and Pope Francis is the shepherd who is walking among us as we pilgrimage on our way there.

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CNS photo/Paul Haring

Remembering September 11, 2001


From Pope John Paul II’s Evening Address to young people
Toronto, Downsview Park
Saturday July 27, 2002

The new millennium opened with two contrasting scenarios: one, the sight of multitudes of pilgrims coming to Rome during the Great Jubilee to pass through the Holy Door which is Christ, our Savior and Redeemer; and the other, the terrible terrorist attack on New York, an image that is a sort of icon of a world in which hostility and hatred seem to prevail.

The question that arises is dramatic: on what foundations must we build the new historical era that is emerging from the great transformations of the twentieth century? Is it enough to rely on the technological revolution now taking place, which seems to respond only to criteria of productivity and efficiency, without reference to the individual’s spiritual dimension or to any universally shared ethical values? Is it right to be content with provisional answers to the ultimate questions, and to abandon life to the impulses of instinct, to short-lived sensations or passing fads?

The question will not go away: on what foundations, on what certainties should we build our lives and the life of the community to which we belong?

Prayer of Pope Benedict XVI
Visit to Ground Zero, New York
Sunday April 20, 2008

O God of love, compassion, and healing,
look on us, people of many different faiths and traditions,
who gather today at this site,
the scene of incredible violence and pain.
We ask you in your goodness
to give eternal light and peace
to all who died here—
the heroic first-responders:
our fire fighters, police officers,
emergency service workers, and Port Authority personnel,
[Read more…]

Re-live all WYD main events this coming week

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Pilgrims have returned home, Copacabana Beach has been cleaned and Rio de Janeiro has returned to business as usual, but in the hearts of everyone something has changed.

Something has to have changed. This has been my fourth international World Youth Day and every time, something changes. Perhaps it’s an insight, perhaps an emotion or a memory. After this WYD there are many memories: Memories of all the people I saw and met; good friends from SpiritandSong.com and World Library Publications; friends from the Catholic Channel on Sirius XM and from the USCCB, Holy Cross Ministries and the Jesuit Conference of the U.S. There are also memories of each event, memories of the one nugget of wisdom of that one insight that I received each and every time Pope Francis spoke. And all these memories come with many emotions.

Which is why it’s good to look back. We are so lucky to live in a day and age when we can look back at these experiences, thanks to the miracle of technology.

And thanks to Salt + Light TV, you’ll be able to re-live all the main events of WYD Rio 2013 between August 12-18.

We will begin with Pope Francis’ historic arrival in Rio de Janeiro. Remember the little Fiat, whizzing down the highway with the Pope sitting in the back with the window down? Remember the wrong turn and the traffic jam and the little Fiat being swarmed by eager fans. Remember the first Pope in 30 years to ride an open Pope Mobile? And the greeting at Guanabara Palace with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff? The Pope said that he came to bring Christ. For me, that set the mood for the whole week: World Youth Day is an occasion for an encounter with Jesus Christ; but we don’t go to encounter Him; He comes to encounter us. And Pope Francis had no other agenda but that of a missionary: To bring Christ – to make disciples of all nations.

Be sure to tune in tomorrow afternoon for the Papal arrival ceremony and enjoy the rest of the week as we re-live all the main events of WYD Rio 2013.

Pope Francis Arrives in Rio de Janeiro
Monday, Aug 12 at 12:30pm ET / 9:30am PT
Tuesday, Aug 13 at 12:00am ET / 9:00pm (Mon) PT

Opening Mass for WYD Rio
Tuesday, Aug 13 at 8:30pm ET / 5:30pm PT
Wednesday, Aug 14 at 12:30am & 1:00pm ET / 9:30pm (Tue) & 10:00am PT

Pope Francis visits Aparecida
Wednesday, Aug 14 at 8:00pm ET / 5:00pm PT
Thursday, Aug 15 at 12:00am & 12:30pm ET / 9:00pm (Wed) & 9:30am PT

Papal Welcome Ceremony: WYD Rio
Thursday, Aug 15 at 8:30pm ET / 5:30pm PT
Friday, Aug 16 at 12:30am & 1:00pm ET / 9:30pm (Thurs) & 10:00am PT

Way of the Cross: WYD Rio
Friday, Aug 16 at 8:30pm ET / 5:30pm PT
Saturday, Aug 17 at 12:30am & 1:00pm ET / 9:30pm (Fri) & 10:00am PT

Vigil with Pope Francis: WYD Rio
Saturday, Aug 17 at 8:30pm ET / 5:30pm PT
Sunday, Aug 18 at 12:30am ET / 9:30pm (Sat) PT

Final Mass of WYD Rio
Sunday, Aug 18 at 8:30pm ET / 5:30pm PT
Monday, Aug 19 at 12:30am ET / 9:30pm (Sun) PT

In case you missed them, here are some of my personal insights and reflections of our two weeks in Rio:
-Being open to surprises
-Worshipping God on Copacabana Beach
-The Cross of service: Between two Marthas
and to watch WYD events from Rio or previous World Youth Days visit us at WYD Central!

What do Pope Francis, WYD, Aparecida, and the New Evangelization have in common?

AparBlog

Salt and Light Photo: The National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida, Brazil

By Sebastian Gomes

World Youth Day Rio is about to begin and everyone is wondering what Pope Francis is going to say and do on his first trip back to South America.  Well, last week I may have uncovered a major clue.

A day after our Salt and Light team landed in Rio, I hit the road again with Fr. Tom, Charles Le Bourgeois and our cameraman Dave LeRoss to the famous town of Aparecida.  After driving for four hours through the rolling hillside of eastern Brazil, we emerged onto a great plain and all of a sudden saw a magnificent red stone Basilica reaching toward the sky: the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida.

Housed inside the basilica – the second largest basilica in the world behind St. Peter’s – is a two and a half foot clay statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, known since the 18th century as Our Lady of Aparecida.  The shrine attracts up to ten million pilgrims every year, and that’s even more impressive considering its remote location!

But there’s another story at Aparecida that needs to be told alongside this one.  In 2007 the Bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean held their Fifth General Conference at this Marian shrine.  The meeting created a lot of buzz because of the religious and cultural backdrop: the Bishops knew that popular Evangelism and growing secularism posed serious challenges to the Latin American Church.  But what really caught people’s attention was the presence of Pope Benedict XVI.  He had come to participate in the inauguration ceremony, where he shared his thoughts on the current state of the Church and the path going forward.

BergBlog

The final document that came out of the conference is known as the Aparecida Document, and Benedict’s influence is apparent throughout.  But what is also apparent is the influence of another man who participated in the conference, then Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio.  In fact, Cardinal Bergoglio was one of the chief architects of the document.

If we continue to connect the dots we see that the pastoral strategy charted in the Aparecida document is being implemented by Bergoglio on the universal level in his ministry as Pope Francis: the importance of a renewed encounter with Jesus for every Christian; the need for Gospel simplicity and humility; a preferential option for the poor; a serious concern for the environment; the necessity of prayer and cultural devotions.  All of these elements are, according to the Bishops of Latin America in 2007 and now Pope Francis, essential for evangelization in our world today.  And if we want to understand what Francis will say and do in Brazil over the next week, perhaps we should consult the Aparecida Document.

Two final points are worth considering.  First, the document stresses the importance of widespread Marian devotion on the continent, which most of us would expect, but should not be underestimated.  In paragraph 43, the Bishops state that globalization has created a diversity of individual and individualized cultures in Central and South America.  This diversity, the Bishops say, is not a bad thing.  But as this phenomenon progresses, what is lacking is, “the possibility of this diversity converging into a synthesis, which, encompassing a variety of meanings, can project it toward a common historic destiny.”  Herein lies the great gift of continental devotion to Mary, “which under different names, has been able to merge different Latin American histories into a shared history: one that leads to Christ.”  There was good reason why the Bishops met at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida and not a conference center or hotel.

Second, the document in many ways foreshadowed the 2012 Synod on the New Evangelization.  One of the major discoveries at that meeting was the need for self-reflection in a spirit of humility, of looking inward to see how our words and actions affect the credibility of the message in our world today.  This kind of open and honest critique was at the heart of Aparecida as well.

The other major theme that connects these two meetings is the encouragement that comes from a renewed encounter with Jesus.  There really is no sustainable program or missionary zeal unless each and every Catholic renews his or her faith in Jesus Christ.  The Synod said that, Aparecida said that, and that may be why Pope Francis has decided not to publish a post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the New Evangelization.  In any case, the Aparecida document should not be read and studied exclusively in the context of Latin American Catholicism, but in the context of the New Evangelization in the universal Church as well.

Perspectives Daily – Thursday, July 18

Today on Perspectives, a tragic incident in the lead-up to World Youth Day, special greetings from Rio de Janeiro and a chance to catch Salt + Light Television for free.

Perspectives Daily – Monday, May 1

Today on Perspectives: Pope Francis calls for an end to slave labour during his talk at the General Audience. Catholic News Service brings us a look at what it means for residents of Rio de Janeiro to host World Youth Day, and we bring you a look at some things happening across Canada.

 

WYD reflects on how to be a disciple

World youth Day Rio has released a series of videos called “Discipulus.” These videos are reflections on discipleship and the many ways of being disciples. In today’s video the reflection is focused on the word intimacy.

“The youthful city that welcomes brothers in faith with generosity!”

s.sebastianMORRO DO ALEMAO

The local organizing committee of WYD Rio 2013 organized a visit of the historic image of Saint Sebastian, patron saint of the City of Rio, to various places in the diocese. In the photo above we see the Archbishop of Rio, João Orani Tempesta leading the processions to what was, until recently, one of the most violent Favelas of Rio “ Morro do Alemão”.

After these series of visits Archbishop Tempesta wrote a letter to encourage people to welcome  WYD pilgrims. He said:

I believe this is an opportune time for a major upheaval in our city, which was hurt so many times by historical events and violence, and usually doesn’t trust outsiders. This is a city founded on the Christian traditions of its people. The straw chapel in Praia Vermelha, with the image of St. Sebastian inside, was built in the sixteenth century and marked the beginning of this great metropolis.

St. Sebastian was recognized as a Christian by his behavior and example. Besides being a good soldier in his day, even being promoted, his way of living announced to everyone that he  followed Christ as his Lord. Because of this he was martyred in the persecution of Diocletian.

I believe also that we have reached the moment to take this very important step and become the youthful city that welcomes brothers in faith with generosity!

 


Photo courtesy of WYD Rio 2013

Churchperson of the Year

Prairie Messenger Catholic Journal – Peter Novecosky, OSB

The year 2012 marked the 10th anniversary of World Youth Day held in Toronto. That celebration planted a seed that continues to bear fruit today.

Basilian Father Tom Rosica, CEO of World Youth Day, was subsequently asked to head up a new Canadian Catholic television network. Backed by $15 million seed money from the Gaetano Gagliano family, founders of the St. Joseph Communications group, Rosica agreed to jump into this new venture, despite his lack of any media formation.

Drawing from the theme of World Youth Day, Rosica launched Salt + Light Television in 2003. He says he wanted to avoid the drawbacks of most religious broadcasting by appealing to and employing young people. “I didn’t just want to appeal to older people; I wanted it to be for younger people, and for younger people to be the stars,” he commented recently.

Salt + Light started out by mostly rebroadcasting a Vatican feed; a decade later, it partners with networks in the U.S. and Europe to provide round-the-clock programming. It is available in 2.6 million homes in Canada and is streamed round the clock on the Internet. Its website boasts about 2,500 videos available on demand, including 400 in Chinese. Salt + Light has expanded with a radio service, a blog, a glossy four-colour semiannual magazine with a circulation around 90,000, and an iPhone and android app.

As a sign of its maturity, Salt + Light has three times won the Gabriel Award from the Catholic Academy for Communication Arts Professionals in the U.S. The award honours work of excellence in film, network and cable television and radio programs, especially programs that uplift and nourish the human spirit.

Salt + Light is making available programming that would otherwide be unavailable. It was present at the dedication of the Holy Family Cathedral in Saskatoon in May 2012. For the second year in a row this September, Salt + Light broadcast live the general sessions of the annual plenary meeting of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. It has become a regular vistor to the annual Supreme Convention of the Knights of Columbus, one of its supporters. At this fall’s Synod of Bishops on Evangelization in Rome, Rosica was appointed the English language Media Attaché and Salt + Light helped prepare the synod’s daily news reports. It also prepared two documentaries on the history of the synods of bishops. The network makes it a priority to tell the stories of new saints and blesseds, and it televises a mass each morning.

On this anniversary year, Archbishop Richard Smith of Edmonton, president of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, congratulated Salt + Light for “the balanced information and faith-inspired insights that Salt + Light Catholic Television provides” to Canadians. A congratulatory message from Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said, “Your message is one of hope — featuring the church that is ‘alive and young.’ Salt and Light is living proof of the new evangelization at work.”

Rosica gives credit to the talented and energetic young Catholics who work with him at Salt + Light. For his accomplishments and initiatives, the Prairie Messenger names him Churchperson of the Year.

S+L photo/ Joshua Lanzarini