By Patricia Navas
MADRID, Spain, AUG. 24, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The highpoint of World Youth Day was a moment that has been little-discussed, according to the leader of the Spanish episcopal conference’s youth ministry department.
For Bishop José Ignacio Munilla Aguirre of San Sebastian, the climax of World Youth Day occurred Saturday night, when Benedict XVI consecrated the youth of the world to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
The 49-year-old bishop spoke with ZENIT about this moment, and about the keys for making the WYD experience bear fruit.
ZENIT: What would you highlight from the Madrid WYD?
Bishop Munilla: During the months and weeks preceding the WYD, we did not expect such a widespread involvement from Spanish youngsters. The number of pilgrims registered from other countries was very numerous, but the number of registered Spaniards left a lot to be desired.
Their large-scale attendance at the last minute, which surprised us all, can be explained by — among other things — the enlivening of the Spanish dioceses by pilgrims from all over the world in the days prior to the WYD.
Once again, the initiative of the Days in the Dioceses has been very effective and pedagogical. The footprint left by young people who came to Madrid has been truly profound and effective.
ZENIT: In your opinion, what are the main novelties offered by this WYD as opposed to previous ones?
Bishop Munilla: The dynamic of WYD is already fairly stable, and the outline of the Madrid meeting was very similar to previous ones.
I think what should be pointed out is the very ample cultural agenda of this WYD, as well as the novel method of providing food — no longer by catering, but making use of 2,500 Madrid restaurants, which contributed to the greater integration of young people in the city.
ZENIT: How do you interpret the rain during the night vigil in Cuatro Vientos?
Bishop Munilla: It is interesting to note that that strong storm — which surprised all of us present there, making us feel our human weakness in face of nature — introduced the culminating moment of Madrid’s WYD.
It was certainly a moment of grace, because it made us see how at a given moment the wind despoiled us of our plans and programs, and we were left naked before the grandeur of God.
In fact at that instance, the Pope decided to omit his words and move to the essential, to Eucharistic adoration.
In the midst of an impressive prayerful silence, the Pope pronounced with a confident voice the consecration of the young people of the world to the Heart of Jesus. It was the culminating moment of this WYD, which will pass into history.
ZENIT: This consecration of young people to the Heart of Jesus has not been greatly commented upon. What is the meaning of that gesture?
Bishop Munilla: With that gesture the Pope wished to stress, before youngsters desirous of transforming the world, that it is necessary to “belong to Christ,” to have intimacy with him, to allow ourselves to be moved by his Spirit.
The Pope used a simple formula, presenting all the young people to Jesus Christ: “(…) with ardent prayer I consecrate them to your Heart, so that rooted and built on you, they will always be yours, in life and in death. May they never be separated from you! (…).”
It was an impressive image of the Pope, who was bringing to our memory what is known as the Priestly Prayer of Jesus Christ (cf. John 17), in which He prayed to the Father so that no one of those entrusted to Him would be lost.
ZENIT: Of all that the Pope said in his addresses, what words have stayed with you the most?
Bishop Munilla: Now, on returning to our homes, we must reread all the addresses.
I have no doubt that it was providential that the Pope was unable to respond to young people’s questions at the Vigil of Cuatro Vientos, because this obliges us even more, if that is possible, to access on the Internet his integral answers and to reflect on them, without staying with a mere phrase from a headline.
ZENIT: What post-WYD reactions have you seen?
Bishop Munilla: The young people are impressed, open at the same time to a new itinerary in their lives.
Over these days, the advice I am repeating most is the following: Find a spiritual director to help you in your following of Christ! I have no doubt that the fruit of this WYD will be directly proportional to the quantity of spiritual support that is initiated.
ZENIT: What is WYD like for a bishop?
Bishop Munilla: I experienced my first WYD as a bishop in Sydney, and I must confess that in that WYD it was hard for me to participate in this way, because I missed the closeness of supporting a concrete group of young people as a priest.
However, the relationship with other brother bishops during those days is also an occasion of grace, given that in general we do not have many opportunities to be together and to exchange our impressions and diocesan experiences.
The organization was very punctilious with all of us, offering us a magnificent concert by the Orfeon Donostiarra in Madrid’s National Auditorium, followed by a dinner in the IFEMA. It was an unforgettable moment!
ZENIT: How were the bishops’ catecheses?
Bishop Munilla: The catecheses with young people are one of the main moments in which a bishop exercises his ministry in a WYD. It is an opportunity to make very direct contact with young people, and to answer their doubts and worries in an open dialogue without any filter whatsoever.
It is a way to heal the deformed image of bishops that many young people have received through the media. The pastors are close to them, share their experiences, listen to them, and communicate the Word to them.
To the above I add that on the present occasion, due to the distribution of the YouCat (Catechism for Young People) in the pilgrim’s backpack, we have had the opportunity to encourage young people to engage in in-depth processes of formation.
The climate of secularization in which we live obliges us to make a special effort to be able to give the reason for our faith to those around us.
ZENIT: The Pope counseled the youngsters not to allow themselves to be led by their impulses, and to serve others and to pose life commitments to themselves. An Iraqi bishop appealed to Arab youths not to emigrate from their countries. Are these not rather unrealistic proposals for the young people of today?
Bishop Munilla: Father Morales, a deceased holy Jesuit, said: “With young people, if you ask a lot of them, they give more, but if you ask little of them, they don’t give anything.”
In other words, evangelical radicalism finds a very special echo in the heart of a youth, when he has not been “domesticated” or “surrendered” to the spirit of this world.
Or as Chesterton said: “Catholicism is the only religion that frees us from the slavery of being children of our time.”[Translation by ZENIT]