New Generations of Catholics Formed in Youth Day

Interview With Father Eric Jacquinet

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By Anita S. Bourdin

VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 6, 2010 ( A quarter century of World Youth Days has renewed the Church by forming new generations of Catholics. Next year’s event in Madrid will have no less impact, says an organizer.

Father Eric Jacquinet, director of the youth office of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, is following from the Vatican the preparation of the 2011 World Youth Day.

He spoke with ZENIT about the message that Benedict XVI addressed to the youth, published Friday, which has as its theme: «Planted and Built up in Jesus Christ, Firm in the Faith» (cf. Col 2:7).

ZENIT: The Pope has written an encyclical on charity and one on hope. Why has he now opted to address the topic of faith with young people?
Father Jacquinet: The Pope pays much attention to the situation of young people in the present context.

He knows that youth is a stage characterized by great aspirations. In this sense, he gives a very impressive personal testimony in this message, remembering his own youth, his aspiration to a great and beautiful life, at the time of the dictatorship of National Socialism.

Now he sees that many young people are disillusioned and without points of reference to build their lives. And the Holy Father is convinced that it is the result of a Western culture marked by three evils: the eclipse of the sense of God, relativism and nihilism.

The Pope offers young people as an answer a positive vision of life, based on faith in God.
ZENIT: How does the Pope articulate this proposal?
Father Jacquinet: In speaking of faith, the Pope uses two images present in the theme: that of the rooted tree and of the house built on a foundation.

Just as the tree needs roots to live and endure bad weather, in the same way the Pope invites young people to find in Christ the source of their life.

And just as the house is only solid if it is based on stable foundations, in the same way our lives are only built in a lasting way on the Word of God, received with the Church.

Hence, faith in the Word of Christ is the antidote to the poison of the eclipse of God, of relativism and of nihilism, with its cohort of negative consequences for the life of young people.

The Pope exhorts them to enter into profound communion with Christ, in whom they will find life.
ZENIT: What do you think is the key point of this message of the Pope to young people of the world?
Father Jacquinet: The theme of Madrid’s World Youth Day is taken from St. Paul’s Letter to the Colossians, as the latter were contaminated by religious philosophies that led Christians away from the Gospel.

The Pope sees that we are in the same situation. A secular current wishes to exclude God from public life, and religious currents proclaim a happiness without Christ.

As St. Paul did, the Pope reminds us that the way to happiness passes through the salvation of the Cross of Christ and that the rest of the proposals are no more than illusions.

Hence, Benedict XVI leads young people to find Christ on the Cross, with very strong words: «The cross often makes us fear, because it seems to be the negation of life. In reality, it is the contrary. It is God’s ‘yes’ to man, the highest expression of his love and the source from which eternal life emanates […] That is why, I want to invite you to take up the cross of Jesus, sign of God’s love, as source of new life.»

Then he shows how the Apostle Thomas, who represents us very well, passed from doubt to faith in Christ, dead and risen.
ZENIT: How can young people put the Pope’s teaching into practice this year?
Father Jacquinet: During this whole year, young people are invited to get together in small groups, in their parishes, chaplaincies, movements, and prayer groups, to meditate on this letter.

Why not read a paragraph per month, asking every young person to reflect with anticipation on some questions and leaving room afterwards for a time of discussion?
ZENIT: In the year 2010, World Youth Day celebrated its 25 years. Benedict XVI sees it as «a prophetic initiative which has borne abundant fruits.» What are these fruits?
Father Jacquinet: The fruits are very numerous.

First of all, for some young people, [World Youth Day] is a place of spiritual experience, of discovery of the presence of the living Christ.

Moreover, it is a very strong ecclesial experience. We meet Catholic young people, solidly rooted in Christ, from the whole world.

The priests and bishops (who give the catecheses) also approach the young people. This reinforces considerably the bond of young people with Christ and with the Church.

And it shows the whole world a renewed and beautiful image of the Church.

In fact, World Youth Days exist because there are young people who commit themselves as volunteers to the whole organization, either in their country of origin or in the host country.

These young people later continue to be committed to the service of the Church.

World Youth Days have also generated numerous consecrated and priestly vocations.

Lastly, it can be said that for the host country, World Youth Day is a great blessing. Given that it calls for the commitment of all ecclesial realities, World Youth Day is an opportunity for a profound renewal of the Church, of parishes, of youth groups, in the host country.
ZENIT: At times it is said that World Youth Days are a specific event, but without subsequent projection or continuity. What do you think?
Father Jacquinet: In the Gospels, the meetings of the disciples with the Risen One are specific events, of short duration, but which nevertheless changed the life of the disciples and bore fruit for the history of the world.

The same can happen with some ecclesial events, such as World Youth Day.

Moreover, each World Youth Day is not a simple five-day event. It is a process that develops in one or two years of preparation and which later bears fruits, if one knows how to gather them.

In general, it can be said that, during these 25 years, the World Youth Days have really contributed to the formation of new generations of Catholics, which today are committed in the Church and in society. And this has a measurable impact in some places.
ZENIT: How will the 2011 World Youth Day unfold?
Father Jacquinet: The opening will take place on Tuesday, August 16, with a Mass presided over by the archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal Antonio María Rouco Varela.

The Pope will arrive on Thursday, August 18. The catecheses will take place on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday morning, in some 300 venues, divided by linguistic groups.

The Way of the Cross, which undoubtedly will be very moving, as it has been on every occasion, will take place on Friday.

The youth festival will propose cultural activities (exhibitions, shows, debates, meetings) every night. Saturday night will be the moment of the great vigil of prayer and Sunday morning, August 21, the closing Mass. We won’t be bored!
ZENIT: The Pope knows there will be many young people in Madrid. How can one register?
Father Jacquinet: It’s very simple. The official Web page enables one to register as a group beginning July 1.

The idea is to encourage all young people to join a group, where they are, to travel together. It can be a parish or diocesan group. There are also movements, communities and associations that suggest traveling with them.

These groups suggest a first stop in a Spanish diocese, in the days preceding World Youth Day, to participate in a first meeting, to be received in the parishes and families, until August 15. All the groups will then go to Madrid.

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On ZENIT’s Web page:

Benedict XVI’s Message:

On the Net:

World Youth Day Web site:

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