By Thacio Siqueira
FORTALEZA, Brazil, May 31, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Young people look at the World Youth Day (WYD) Cross “as a sign of God’s love for us,” said Father Antonio Ramos do Prado, SDB, known as Father Toninho.
In an interview with ZENIT, Father Toninho explained how Brazil is receiving the WYD Cross that has been travelling through the different dioceses.
Father Toninho is an adviser of the Episcopal Commission for Youth Pastoral Care and national coordinator of the pilgrimage of the WYD Cross in Brazil.
Father Toninho: The young people are from all social classes, from the countryside and from the city. They are from youth pastoral endeavors who live their ministry in rural communities, in the popular media, in the student world, in grass-roots communities in our parishes in Brazil. They are young people of movements, of new communities, of the university world and of congregations that have a charism directed to the evangelization of youth.
ZENIT: How do young people regard the WYD Cross?
Father Toninho: Many look at it asking God for freedom. For example, when the Cross is taken to prisons, young inmates ask God to release them from their chains. When a young person is unemployed, he asks God for work; when he is a drug addict, he asks God for healing. When he is not doing well in school, he asks God to help him improve. Others look at the Cross with piety and gratitude. Some try to look at the Cross to understand Christ’s suffering but many look at the Cross as a sign of God’s love for us, as hope, because Christ is alive. The most moving look I witnessed was that of a young prisoner who asked God to cure his mother who had cancer. In the end, they always seek God’s mercy.
ZENIT: Can the WYD Cross convert someone?
Father Toninho: Yes. When the Cross passes in the midst of a multitude, many people who don’t believe want to know why young people are following a wooden Cross. Then they begin to seek answers to their anxieties. In the heat of a debate between faith and reason, a student of the Teresina-Piaui University questioned God’s existence. Then, at a certain point, when the young people of the archdiocese entered the debate hall with the Cross singing “On my chest I carry a cross,” he changed his mind, asserting at that moment that faith goes beyond reason.
ZENIT: What is expected from the pilgrimage of the WYD Cross in Brazil?
Father Toninho: That it will help young people to strengthen their faith and especially to live intensely the proposal of the Aparecida Document, namely, to be true disciples of Christ and genuine missionaries. We hope that the Cross will help young people to reaffirm their fundamental choice for Christ and the Church. That it will help young people to fulfill their plan of life and to give direction to their journey through it. That it will help young people not to lose sight of God’s tenderness.
ZENIT: What special legacy could the Cross arouse in young people?
Father Toninho: The rate of youth mortality increases every year in Brazil. The important legacy would be that the young people who are following the Cross be the evangelizers of other young people so that they will have life in abundance.