For the last 30 years, World Youth Days have made a strong impression on the character and goals of young people and the richness of their relationship with the Pope.
In a new book, Paolo Fucili and Daniele Bungaro hone in on the World Youth Days during Blessed John Paul II’s years as Pope.
Fucili, TV correspondent for TV 2000, and Bungaro, Italian journalist for the Italian national news agency ASCA, offered the Italian public a glimpse into this specific aspect of Wojtyla’s teachings.
Fucili and Bungaro spoke to ZENIT and discussed their new book: “La Santita E’ Sempre Giovane. Giovanni Paolo II e Il Cammino delle GMG (Holiness Is Always Young and the Walk of the World Youth Days).
ZENIT: What is the focus of this book?
Fucili: The focus is simply all the World Youth Days during John Paul II’s time as Pope and, in more detail, the teachings of the Pope, which are very real and alive today too.
ZENIT: What audience are you targeting?
Fucili: We are targeting, first of all, young people, also because the publisher, Elledici, belonging to the Salesian religious family, specifically focuses on targeting young people. But I think it could be of interest to a larger audience. It’s an easy opportunity (only 110 pages!) to discover how, in speaking to young audiences, John Paul II always used to find words that go directly to the heart and human desire for God.
ZENIT: How did you structure the book?
Fucili: Every chapter has a WYD edition as object, from 1984 (the Young People’s Jubilee) to 2005, in Cologne (but Wojtyla died about four months before). Each WYD chapter contains history, facts, events, many significant quotations of all the Holy Father’s speeches or messages, with some reference to the general history of the pontificate, to contextualize the storytelling of each WYD. I can think of Manila WYD, for example. Five million people took part in the final Mass, an “unbeaten record” till now.
Why, we need to ask ourselves, were many big crowds of young people so attracted by John Paul II? Because his joy of living, his smiling faith, his burning passion to proclaim the Gospel to every man were almost “contagious.” In fact, “I’m convinced that you, Filipino people, are so joyous because you received the Good News. Who is receiving the Good News is joyous, is radiant with joy, and also is giving the joy to others,” the Pope said in Manila.
ZENIT: What inspired you to write this book?
Fucili: From my specific point of view, thinking of those who did not know who he was or what Wojtyla had done to be a saint, I felt myself inspired by a desire of make them know something of this extraordinary man: a man that made millions of men and women (not only young people) discover the beauty, the strength, and also the modernity of Christianity. And this is not a small thing, at the end of the century that has theorized, for a so long time, the “death of God”. Therefore, Wojtyla has became the most authoritative voice of the collective consciousness of humanity.
Let’s consider the struggle in defense of life, against the mainstream of Western countries’ mentalities. It’s a tragic paradox, as he told young people in Denver, during the 1993 WYD: “threats against life are becoming more insidious while science and medicine are able to have a greater ability to ensure health and life.”
Bungaro: Upon receiving input from the publisher, we started immersing ourselves in the history of the World Youth Days starting with the first steps made by Pope John Paul II in 1984. Going back to every single meeting with the young people, we noted one of the “miracles” of Pope John Paul II: the young people rediscovered their desire and love for God. This compelled us to tell the extraordinary link between the Pope, the youth, and God.
ZENIT: What do you hope to impress upon the youth who read this book? What sort of reaction do you hope to achieve?
Fucili: It would be great if the reaction was like that of rediscovering friendship with an old friend, a friend with whom one has not made contact in a long time. I would use the word “friend,” yes…just as Wojtyla had considered the millions of young people friends. I also would like to say that the title of the book (“Holiness Is Always Young”) is a quotation of a speech of the Pope in Toronto in 2002, which was the last WYD he attended at age 82. Twelve years later, everything is clear: Pope John Paul II was always young in spirit, in the soul, as he was a saint, without shadow of a doubt.
Bungaro: The young people in this book can find some of the answers to the most important questions in life. Through the testimonies and the words of the Pope they will discover that God is always near and never abandons them. The evil in the world has taken foot because, on some level, we have lost our capacity to love. However, through the love and life exemplified by John Paul II, we can restore this capacity.