The Secret of World Youth Day´s Success

A “Journey of Love” for Participants, Cardinal Says

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ROME, MAR. 16, 2001 ( Cardinal Francis James Stafford remembers how, as archbishop of Denver, Colorado, he faced a lot of skepticism as World Youth Day 1993 approached.

“Many North Americans went to Denver with a willing heart, although somewhat mistrustful,” he recalled during his address at a one-day congress here on “A Young Church with Youth: Evaluation and Prospects of World Youth Days.”

“There was much skepticism,” the president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity said. “Frankly, the announcement of World Youth Day to be held in Denver did not spark enthusiasm in our diocese. The bishops were reticent when the time came to promote it.”

He continued: “The Catholic schools were not opening their doors wide to the volunteers giving information: They looked suspiciously on this meeting with the Pope, as they regarded it as one more attack on the Second Vatican Council, one more proof of a return to paternal methods, another challenge to lay ministry. Whoever tried to promote Denver was seen as a suspicious ambassador of a sect.”

The congress was organized by the Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum, in cooperation with the Italian bishops´ National Office for the Pastoral Care of Youth. The talks were transmitted live on Internet over

Cardinal Stafford said that skepticism also happened before the other World Youth Days. “What altered this skepticism?” he asked.

His reply: “World Youth Day opens the most profound feelings of the ´humanum´ to youth, which, at a time of advanced technology, are often obfuscated.”

“The participants make a kind of journey of return to the sources of Christian life, thus living — in the ambit of a community of disciples — a journey of love and friendship, of prayer and contemplation,” he said. “Many experience the wisdom of Christian humanism for the first time.”

The secret of World Youth Days, the cardinal said, is that the Pope brings together young people who “walk and pray together.”

“They perspire together and together receive water and what is necessary to refresh themselves along the way,” he said. “They feel hungry. At the end they gather around a guitar and sing traditional songs or religious hymns.” And, in the midst of this unique atmosphere, the Pope exhorts them to “have the courage to believe in the good news on the life that Jesus teaches in the Gospel,” the cardinal said.

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