ROME – As Pope Francis heads to Lisbon tomorrow for World Youth Day, an occasion usually dubbed the “Catholic Woodstock” because of the massive and celebratory crowds it at all times attracts, he faces the distinctive problem revitalizing the religion amid rising European secularism and progressively empty pews within the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lots of of 1000’s of pilgrims have already flocked to Lisbon for World Youth Day (WYD), set to happen from Aug. 1-6 and which holds the theme, “Mary arose and went in haste.” By the point the pontiff celebrates the occasion’s concluding Mass August 6, turnout is anticipated to achieve effectively over a million folks, and maybe even extra.
A defining query that can hang-out the occasion is whether or not these enormous crowds will be translated right into a bump for routine observe of the religion, as soon as the star energy of the pope is again in Rome.
Whether or not or not Francis’s presence might profit the native church, a key papal advisor says he’s certain of no less than one social gathering who will achieve energy from the encounter with the huge throngs of pumped-up younger Catholics assembling within the Portuguese capital: Pope Francis himself.
“He will get alongside very effectively with younger folks; we’ve seen it on varied events,” Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro instructed Crux.
It’s as if vitality flows,” Spadaro mentioned, noting that when the pope travels, his assembly with younger folks normally comes on the finish of a visit when he’s already drained, however every time he will get there, “he’s at all times revitalized, there’s this dynamic vitality which he embodies.”
Initially scheduled for 2022 however postponed on account of COVID-19, this yr’s occasion marks the primary worldwide WYD gathering for the reason that pandemic.
Pope Francis kicked off his papacy with WYD in Rio de Janeiro in 2013, his first worldwide outing, occurring simply 4 months after his election. Lisbon will mark his fourth worldwide WYD as pope, following earlier gatherings in Krakow in 2016 and Panama in 2019.
As he arrives in Lisbon Wednesday, he’ll be setting foot in a rustic lately rocked by a collection of clerical abuse scandals at a time when Mass attendance on the entire is declining all through Europe, and the place the general public observe of religion appears to be shrinking by the day.
Talking to journalists forward of the pope’s journey, the Patriarch of Lisbon, Cardinal Manuel Clemente, mentioned that whereas the vast majority of Portugal’s historically Catholic inhabitants, roughly 70 %, declare themselves to be Catholic, far fewer could be labeled as “training,” which means on the very least that they attend Mass on a weekly foundation.
“I imagine that what’s occurring, not simply right here in Portugal however throughout Europe, is one thing totally different, as a result of now we have handed from being a multi-confessional state…to a state by which devotion is one thing very private,” Clemente mentioned.
Religion, he mentioned, is now “extra particular person, it’s not one thing social or cultural for everybody, faith is customized.”
Established by Pope Saint John Paul II in 1986 as a strategy to attain out to youth and have interaction them in church life, WYD is widely known yearly on the native degree, however the worldwide gatherings each three years or so are well-known for the large crowds they draw, with younger folks descending into the host metropolis in droves, normally bustling with pleasure and tune.
Youths who’ve attended WYD gatherings have mentioned the occasion had a lifelong impression, and lots of have pegged it because the time after they both met their partner or first felt the decision to spiritual life.
Proximity to the pope has at all times been among the many most thrilling facets for the youth who come, and Pope Francis didn’t disappoint at WYD in Rio in 2013, famously rallying a gaggle of younger Argentinians, telling them to make a “mess” and to get out on the streets and unfold the religion with out worrying whose feathers they ruffle.
Organizers hope this yr’s WYD in Lisbon is perhaps simply the jab Europe wants because it additionally makes an attempt to get better from the non secular fallout of COVID-19 and years of rising non secular apathy.
Whereas there, Pope Francis will meet with civil authorities, together with Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa and Prime Minister António Costa, in addition to the nation’s Catholic hierarchy, clergymen, and spiritual.
He’s additionally slated to fulfill college college students and youth belonging to numerous organizations along with presiding over official WYD actions, together with an official welcome ceremony Thursday, the standard WYD Through Crucis on Friday, a big prayer vigil on Saturday, and a public Mass on Sunday.
The pontiff can also be scheduled to listen to the confessions of younger folks and maintain a non-public assembly with abuse survivors throughout his keep.
On Friday, he’ll go to the famed Marian shrine of Fatima, roughly 80 miles from Lisbon, and which is the location of the famed 1917 Marian apparitions to 3 shepherd kids, two of whom Francis canonized throughout his go to to Fatima in 2017 for the centenary anniversary of the apparitions.
Talking to Crux, Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, head of Italian Jesuit-run journal La Civilta Cattolica and a papal confidant who accompanies Pope Francis on all of his worldwide journeys, mentioned Francis is uniquely positioned to achieve younger folks, as he sees them as protagonists not solely in the way forward for the church however it’s current.
Pope Francis “feels that youth are the current, not the longer term, so the duty is for as we speak,” he mentioned, saying the pope desires them to be “the protagonists of the important thing questions of the present world.”
“When the pope says to ‘make a multitude,’ utilizing such a robust expression, it means this: Take your future in hand now” and transfer ahead, he mentioned.
Spadaro mentioned there’s a want for “youth protagonism” on the planet, particularly at a time when “younger individuals are subjected to the principles that others make for them, and they don’t seem to be protagonists of the way in which the world is creating.”
He famous that in lots of cases, younger folks wait till they’re older to change into lively or to get entangled in tasks, which means these younger folks, as youths, “change into aged ultimately, center aged.”
“The thought as we speak of being younger has been prolonged in time, there’s a kind of hybridization between aged and younger,” Spadaro mentioned, however famous that what’s essential for Pope Francis is that youth “start to imagine their very own duty quickly,” whereas they’re nonetheless younger.
Pop Francis’s want to have interaction with “stressed” youth and even those that are seemingly “maladjusted,” in that they don’t sugarcoat their concepts, goes again to his time in Buenos Aires, Spadaro mentioned, saying this want has accompanied Francis all through his papacy and is “completely built-in” into his total pastoral agenda.
“There may be good integration, and this is because of his want to dialogue,” he mentioned, and particularly cited Francis’s repeated requires younger folks to dialogue with the aged.
Clemente in his remarks mentioned the pope will probably interact key problems with concern throughout his go to, reminiscent of migration, the clerical abuse scandals and the continuing battle in Ukraine.
It will probably occur through the pope’s go to to Fatima and through the WYD Through Crucis, he mentioned, saying, “It’s the Through Crucis of the world, and [the world] might be current within the prayers, reflections, and meditations.”
Different points anticipated to be main themes are key papal priorities, reminiscent of his issues about local weather change, social injustice, international fraternity, and the Ukraine-Russia battle, which is able to probably come up in his go to to the Fatima shrine.
Noting that Pope Francis underwent stomach surgical procedure in June following a short hospital keep earlier this yr, along with his persistent sciatica and knee ache, Spadaro mentioned he doesn’t assume papal well being might be a difficulty, and that Francis “is totally conscious and, I might say, snug along with his limitations.”
“He actually likes to be lively, to fulfill, to the touch, to see, to take part. So clearly extreme limitations just like the leg and all the remainder are a priority, nevertheless, this concern doesn’t [stop] him,” Spadaro mentioned, saying Francis “is aware of calibrate his vitality, he has at all times performed this very effectively from the start.”
“So I might say sure, there are well being troubles, however this is not going to maintain again the vitality…I believe the younger folks will react very, very effectively, as a result of they’re very, very delicate to those limits, they usually understand how a lot the pope loves them.”
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