Youth Center Founded by Bl. John Paul II Celebrates 30 Years

Young People Challenged to Have Key Role in the Church’s Mission

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It has been 30 years since Blessed John Paul II, known for his love of the youth, founded the Centro San Lorenzo as a place where young pilgrims in Rome can encounter the living Church within the context of prayer and community.

The Centro San Lorenzo International Centre for Youth (CSL) was established on March 13th, 1983, by John Paul II. Although under the auspices of the Pontifical Council for the Laity (PCL) and the Emmanuel Community, the CSL itself has been managed almost exclusively by a team of young people since its inception.

The anniversary celebrations began early Saturday morning with Mass at the tomb of Blessed John Paul II in Saint Peter’s Basilica, presided over by Fr. Eric Jacquinet, director of the Pontifical Council for the Laity’s youth section. CSL chaplain, Fr Fabien Lambert, was among those concelebrating the Mass.

Speaking with ZENIT, Fr Jacquinet explained how the CSL was founded out of Blessed John Paul II’s desire to show young people that they have a genuine role within the mission of the Church. «The fact [Blessed] John Paul II opened a center for young people in the Vatican,» he said, is evidence of his desire «to give to the young people their place in the Church. They are the present and the future of the Church. They are the hope of the Church.»

In a practical sense, the CSL also served as a place where young people could have a clear role in the mission of the youth center, and therefore in the Church. «Over the past 30 years,» he said, «the Centro has been managed by many young people. Now I am very happy because in addition to one adult, we have three young students who are in charge of the Centro part time, working and welcoming other young people.»

Since the conclusion of the Holy Year of Redemption (1983-1984), the Centro San Lorenzo has been the official home of the original World Youth Day (WYD) Cross. This Cross, Fr Jacquinet, serves as a reminder to young people that «the center of our faith is the sacrifice of Christ and the Cross… [from which] we receive hope, healing, strength, love, and ability to give our life to him to serve the Church and the world.»

Upon being entrusted with the WYD Cross, the youth were challenged by John Paul II to «bring it to everybody in the world and testify that, without Christ, there is no redemption.»
Fr. Fabien Lambert, CSL chaplain, told ZENIT how this 30th anniversary is an opportunity to «recall our first mission, in the sense that, as John Paul II said at the inauguration of this Center: our mission, before all else, is to tell the world of God’s love.»

With the anniversary of CSL coinciding with the Conclave of Cardinals, he said explained how they brought their intentions to the tomb of Blessed John Paul II, «to ask his help, his intercession, his prayer for this Centro… and to pray for the Church.»

CSL welcoming coordinator is Cecile Delattre, 22, from France, who became involved in the youth center about a year and a half ago. «The 30th anniversary is significant,» she said «because it’s so beautiful to see that the Lord has given so many graces to young people through the Centro for so many years. It’s beautiful to give thanks to the Lord for all he has done in the hearts of young people here in this place.»

Sharing her own experience, Delattre explained how the CSL helped to give her a sense of the Church’s beauty. «When I was in France,» she recounted, «the Church was something quite theoretical for me, and here I really discovered what the Church means for me, personally, meeting young people from the whole world and sharing such a deep fraternity with them. I understood the importance of the connection we have through Christ.»

With the 30th anniversary taking place concurrently with the Conclave to elect a new pope, she emphasized how, even though the Church is currently in a period of sede vacante, this «anniversary reminds us that the hope comes from the Cross. In this moment in the Church, I think we need to hear that again – that the victory is won by Christ forever.»

Editors note: The CSL is currently hosting all night Eucharistic Adoration for the intentions of the Conclave, starting Monday, March 11 and concluding Friday, March 15 at 6:30pm.

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Ann Schneible

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