What Youth Give Society

Interview With Vatican Aide on Upcoming Youth Day Plans

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By Anita S. Bourdin

ROME, JAN. 21, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI is sending a message to young people for the next World Youth Days, and it is important for them to read it, affirms Father Eric Jacquinet.

Father Jacquinet is the head of the youth section of the Pontifical Council for the Laity.

The priest was referring to messages on the themes for the upcoming diocesan and worldwide youth days, which were recently published by the Pope. The themes are: for the 24th World Youth Day (2009): "We Have Set Our Hope on the Living God" (1 Timothy 4:10); for the 25th World Youth Day (2010): "Good Teacher, What Must I do to Inherit Eternal Life?" (Mark 10:17); and for the 26th World Youth Day (2011): "Rooted and Built Up in Jesus Christ, Firm in the Faith" (Colossians 2:7).

In this interview with ZENIT, Father Jacquinet speaks about the themes for the next three youth gatherings and the spirit with which young people can live them.

Q: What "dynamic" do these three topics follow?

Father Jacquinet: Each of these themes has its own logic. The first, for 2009, speaks of hope. The Pope invites young people to enter into true hope, the "great hope" that only Christ can give.

And we receive this hope in the Church. This is vital for young people, within the context of the current social and economic crisis. First of all, because youth is by definition the time of hope: It is the time for plans and the initial education needed in order to enter into life.

Furthermore, young Christians have the mission of being witnesses of hope among their peers. Finally, because in all ages society has benefited from the contribution of youth.

It suffices to look at the impact of young monks in medieval Europe or the work of St. Francis of Assisi. More recently, the youth Frederic Ozanam founded the St. Vincent de Paul Conferences at the age of 20.
 
A great number of young people have participated in the life of our world.

They did so because they had a great hope. They found this hope in Christ, the living God, as St. Paul affirms, after his experience on the road to Damascus. And he would become a passionate witness of this until his death.

The theme for 2010 refers to the rich young man’s question to Jesus: "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" In 2010, we will celebrate the 25th anniversary of John Paul II’s beautiful letter to young people (1985).

This letter was a commentary on this encounter of the rich young man -- who represents in a certain way all young people -- with Jesus. The question concerns action: "What must I do?"

This theme leads to Christian commitment in the world. And the object of this commitment is "to obtain eternal life."

Thus we understand that this theme is the continuation of the previous one about hope in eternal life.

Lastly, the theme for the Madrid World Youth Day, in 2011, leads to rooting one's faith in Christ.  

The Pope often encourages young people to cultivate their Christian faith, to make it mature and solid. He exhorts them to form themselves in order to "give an account of the hope that is in them."
 
Thus it is a real pathway toward Madrid that the Pope offers young Christians, during these three years of preparation.

Q: How can we help youth live these years in our dioceses?

Father Jacquinet: The Pope will address a message to the youth about each one of these themes. The next message will be published at the beginning of 2009.

Young people should read it! The Pope is writing to them. They should discuss this important text.

Furthermore, the Pope encourages the youth of each diocese to get together each year, so as to live World Youth Day in their own country, around Palm Sunday or in another moment. Youth ministry leaders are thus exhorted to organize something according to their possibilities.  

But the youth should not wait passively for proposals. Can they not also make plans, present proposals to their bishops, to their priests, to their leaders?

Q: Is there still a future in the Youth Day formula, or is it waning?

Father Jacquinet: The echoes of the last World Youth Days, in Cologne and Sydney, show that the World Youth Day formula is far from waning!

On the contrary, it is developing, and each time it reaches new generations of young people.  

The great international gatherings have one similar, general form: a week in a metropolis, with the presence of the Pope, delegations from almost every country, catecheses in the morning, a youth festival that offers diverse expressions of the faith, a Way of the Cross, three speeches by the Holy Father, the highlight being the Saturday vigil and the closing Mass on Sunday.

Before this week, numerous groups make a stop in a nearby diocese, which is also very important: the welcoming of the families and parishes renews the young pilgrims as well as the welcoming dioceses. All of this produces many fruits, through the grace of the Holy Spirit.

These fruits are also linked to the fact that the young people prepare themselves for several months for the Youth Day and that their groups continue afterward.

And it appears that during all these years since 1986, World Youth Days have formed generations of youth, today engaged in the Church, with a harvest of vocations to the priesthood and to the religious life, not to mention the married couples who met at a youth day!

Additionally, World Youth Day has given momentum to youth ministry in many countries worldwide. So the World Youth Day formula still has a brilliant future.