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Updated: World Youth Day postponed

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A Portuguese flag is seen near Pope Francis as he greets the crowd before celebrating Mass for World Youth Day pilgrims at St John Paul II Field in Panama City 27 January, 2019. PHOTO: CNS

Aussies say life-changing experience is worth the wait

Young Australian Catholics have accepted with equanimity the postponing of the next international World Youth Day until August 2023 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Many young people on social media said it only means more time for them to save up for the pilgrimage to Lisbon where it will be held. For some it means an opportunity to go at all has suddenly opened.

Director of the National Centre for Evangelisation Malcolm Hart agreed, telling The Catholic Weekly that the extra time will allow for a greater contingent of young people to travel to the Portuguese capital to gather with the Pope than might otherwise have been the case.

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“It’s quite reasonable in today’s landscape that it’s been postponed,” he said. “I’m sure that the government in Portugal and the people in Lisbon who would have otherwise been preparing to host World Youth Day are focussed on other things at the moment which are much more important.

A sea of flags and more than half a million friends: pilgrims attend the World Youth Day prayer vigil at St John Paul II Field in Panama City on 26 January. Photo: CNS, Paul Haring

“Here in Australia it gives young people more time to prepare spiritually and financially and also allows many of the dioceses and churches to prepare as well. There are a lot of resources going into responding to COVID-19 at the moment, so this allows us to have more time to fundraise to help as many young people as we can get to World Youth Day in 2023.”

Restrictions also push the World Meeting of Families back

Pope Francis agreed to a recommendation by the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life to postpone by one year both the World Youth Day and World Meeting of Families gathering which will now be held in June 2022.

Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the dicastery, told Catholic News Service that now is the time his office would be signing contracts with hotels and airlines if the World Meeting of Families were still to be held next year as scheduled, “but no one knows what will happen,” so it seemed prudent to push the meeting back a year.

The dicastery also would not hold two large gatherings during the same summer, which was one reason World Youth Day was pushed back, he said. The other reason, Cardinal Farrell said, is that it was not believed travel “will be that extensive” any time soon.

Aussie delegates in Dublin’s Phoenix Park for the closing Mass of the World Meeting of Families on 26 August, 2018. PHOTO: Chris Gordon

The Sydney archdiocese’s Life, Family and Outreach team leader Steven Buhagiar said that “big plans” the archdiocese had prepared for the World Meeting of Families in Rome were now on hold but ready to roll out when the time is right.

“The response to the virus has taken away a lot of the essential lead time for plans to participate in such a big event as this, so the postponement will actually work to our benefit,” he said. “We’re ready to go and as soon as can we will be announcing the archdiocesan strategy for the World Meeting of Families.”

Life-changing experience is worth the wait

Sydney Catholic Youth team leader Chris Lee that it was disappointing to hear that there will be no youth gathering in 2022, as “someone who has World Youth Day to thank for playing such a pivotal role in their faith and deepening their relationship with Christ”.

“I understand how life-giving it is for the young person who is searching for meaning and purpose,” he said. “However I do understand these times are difficult and the Holy Father is making a decision based on prudence and safety.

“We might have to wait a little longer but World Youth Day in Portugal will be no doubt a life-changing experience for all the young people who attend.”

“I’m really excited now that I’m going to be able to go”

Fifteen-year old Elizabeth Buhagiar said the news suited her as the original date fell within her HSC year and she had resigned herself to missing out. “Two of my brothers and two of my sisters have gone to World Youth Days and I’m really excited now that I’m going to be able to go,” she said.

Sydney Catholic Nikita D’Souza who travelled to Krakow for the 2016 World Youth Day and plans to go to Lisbon said she was upset at first because she loved the event “so much”.
“Then, I came to my senses and remembered my values,” she said. “I trust in God’s timing and believe that WYD will happen all in His timing and we shall rejoice in unity.”

Hopes handing over of the WYD cross will go ahead as plannned

The dicastery has cancelled all international meetings until January 2021, although it is planning for a few young people from Panama, where World Youth Day was celebrated in 2019, to hand the World Youth Day cross to a few young people from Lisbon on 22 November, the feast of Christ the King.

The hand-off originally was scheduled for 5 April, Palm Sunday, but was postponed because of the lock-downs and travel bans in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

If the young representatives from Panama and Portugal are not able to travel to Rome in November, Cardinal Farrell said, Panamanians and Portuguese already living in Rome will participate in the event.

Organisers in Lisbon said they accepted the decision “with confidence”. “The local organising committee is enthusiastic about preparing the WYD in Portugal, knowing that the event will bring to the Portuguese capital the hope and joy of young people from all over the world,” they said.

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