Youth all over the world are preparing for the great meeting awaiting them in Poland. World Youth Day (WYD) will be held in Krakow from July 25-31, and will enjoy the presence of Pope Francis beginning on the 28th.
To learn more about this youth festival, ZENIT interviewed Monsignor Miguel Delgado Galindo, Under-Secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, who described the WYD as being much more than an event with a beginning and an end. The WYD “is not a castle of fireworks, as those used in some popular celebrations, which end at night with a final farewell string of fireworks and leave no trace whatsoever.”
ZENIT: The World Youth Day is an event that is repeated every three years, but is always new. What expectations exist for the celebration of this great event in Krakow?
Monsignor Delgado: Indeed, the WYD, which was instituted by Saint John Paul II in 1985, the year proclaimed by the UN “International Year of Youth,” is always an event full of novelty. No WYD is the same as previous ones; each one has something unique, which makes it special and unrepeatable. The years go by, but the WYD continues to awaken interest in the new generations of young people, because there are always those who are ready to take part in the WYD. And this is a reason for hope for the Church and for society.
The expectations are frankly good in all aspects. Work was intense over these three years, in preparation of Krakow’s WYD. Up to today, almost one million individuals of all the Continents have expressed their intention to take part in it. It is a record number in the WYD’s history. To this figure must be added all those young people who will go to Krakow unaware of the <event’s> arrival, and they are always many.
ZENIT: What are regarded as the great challenges?
Monsignor Delgado: Much work has been done on the organization of the events with the Pope, on the catecheses that will be imparted to young people by Bishops, and on the different issues that have to do with logistics during the days of the WYD: lodging, transport, food distribution, etc. However, the main challenge of the WYD is that it must be a genuine event of grace, so that the young people that attend it have in the Church, together with Pope Francis, an intimate and personal encounter with Jesus that transforms their lives, enabling them to set high goals for their Christian life: conversion, vocations (to the priesthood, to lay life, to consecrated life), etc.
ZENIT: The theme is “Blessed are the merciful, for they will obtain mercy.” We are in the Year of Mercy. Krakow is known in the world as the capital of Divine Mercy. How will the World Youth Day mark all this?
Monsignor Delgado: Krakow’s 2016 WYD is the WYD of the Jubilee of Mercy that the Church is living. The theme of mercy is very much in Pope Francis’ heart and in that of his Pontificate. The Pope will help young people to reflect further on mercy; to have it understood better that we Catholics believe in a close God, who loves us as the Father He is and who has a mother’s <heart>. To discover this is to transform a person’s life. It is worthwhile to reread the Message that Pope Francis sent to young people worldwide in preparation of this year’s WYD. Pope Francis talks about an encounter he had with Divine Mercy: one day, when he was 17, he entered Saint Joseph’s Basilica in the district of Flores, in Buenos Aires, where he lived with his family. He met a priest in the confessional who inspired a special confidence in him and young Jorge Mario approached him and opened his heart to him in the Sacrament of Penance. The Pontiff recalls that that encounter with God’s mercy changed his life. He had the certainty that the Lord was waiting for him.
ZENIT: Saint Faustina and Saint John Paul II are the Patrons of these Days. How are they an example for young people?
Monsignor Delgado: The Saints are our faithful friends in Heaven. They offer us their friendship and their intercession before God. Saint Faustina Kowalska and Saint John Paul II, who lived in Krakow, are apostles of Divine Mercy, of which the men of our time – as of all times of history — are in such great need. These Saints help us to understand what Pope Francis has said: that mercy is God’s first attribute: that mercy is God’s name.
In Saint Faustina’s Diary, written in the 30s of the last century, this Polish mystic recalls a great truth of faith: the merciful love of God for men. The worship of Divine Mercy consists, in fact, in confidence in the infinite love of God and in the practice of works of mercy.
Saint John Paul II, a great friend of young people, had great devotion to Divine Mercy. He beatified Sister Faustina in 1993 and canonized her in the year 2000. Following the revelations this Saint had, Pope Wojtyla instituted the feast of Divine Mercy, which is held on the first Sunday after Easter.
Saint Faustina lived the drama of World War I and Saint John Paul II the tragedy of the Second World War. Both were aware of the presence of the evil ideologies that marked European history of the 20th century. However, at the end of his life, Saint John Paul II wrote that evil has its limits: divine and human goodness that is always stronger than any evil. In a word, evil finds its limit in Divine Mercy.
ZENIT: In what way is the WYD concretized in a message of hope for youth?
Monsignor Delgado: The WYD is in itself a sign of hope for the Church and for the world – of a hope that comes to us through faith and the joy of young people of all the Continents. The WYD teaches us that it is possible to believe in God and to be witnesses of His mercy, bringing faith to those who are estranged from Christ or who perhaps never knew Him; hope to those who are demoralized, love to those humanly and spiritually needy, and joy because we are very dear children of God.
ZENIT: How can the Church extend the fruits that these meetings leave in young people and in committed laymen?
Monsignor Delgado: By giving the WYD continuity in time, which is much more than an event with a beginning and an end. The WYD isn’t a castle of fireworks, as those used in some popular celebrations, which end at night with a final farewell string of fireworks and leave no trace whatsoever. Then the moment begins to accompany each one of those that took part in the WYD, to help them to concretize in their lives the fruit they received during those days, keeping present that the best apostle of a youth is another youth. This task concerns the Pastors of the Church, the Religious and the lay faithful.