Mini World Youth Day — Durban style


From the 6-10 December more than 4,000 young people, some 20 bishops and scores of priests and religious will gather in Durban for Mini World Youth Day (MWYD). Spotlight Africa spoke to some of these bishops about their hopes and expectations for the week ahead.

President of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC), Archbishop Stephen Brislin of Cape Town, told Spotlight Africa that he is looking forward to MWYD because in so many parishes brilliant young people are showing great leadership in ministering to young people through youth groups and other activities. Smiling he said, “We people from the fossil age should just be there to give guidance and encouragement, but young people should be taking responsibility for young people”.

About 4,000 young people are expected to gather in Durban from South Africa, Swaziland and Botswana to attend MWYD. Fr Patrick Rakaketsi, Associate Secretary General of the SACBC, said more than 20 bishops have registered to take part in the event.

MWYD is an event initiated and hosted by the SACBC through its Department of the Laity and it is spearheaded by the SACBC Youth Office.

The event will be a precursor for the local Church as Pope Francis has called a sitting of the Synod of Bishops in Rome in 2018 on “Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment.” MWYD is also part of a build up to World Youth Day in 2019 which will be held in Panama.

Vice-President of the SACBC, Bishop Sithembele Sipuka of Mthatha, says that a lot of time, energy and money has been put into the event. “I see it as an impetus for youth ministry. I congratulate the youth desk for rallying the bishops to do something for the youth at Conference level.” He hopes that young people will be inspired to love their faith and be more committed when they return to their own communities. “I look forward to being part of this event,” the bishop said.

Sipuka believes that the time, resources and effort that have gone into this event give a clear message: “as a Church in Southern Africa, we see the youth as very important.”

Communications Office of the SACBC, Fr Paul Tatu, says that he hopes that young people will share their faith experiences and in so doing build a better quality of life and leadership for the future. “It is also our hope that the success of this event will inspire the Pope to come to come to South Africa and meet our young people.” Tatu encouraged young people to stand up and be part of the church and our society.

MWYD will also have an ecumenical dimension. The SACBC, through its Department for Ecumenism, is in close collaboration with other Christian denominations and faiths. Through the Durban-based ecumenical movement, Diakonia, people of other denominations and religions have also been invited to attend.

Chair of the Justice and Peace Department of the SACBC, Bishop Abel Gabuza of Kimberley, said that he was thrilled about the gathering as there is a social justice component to MWYD. The event coincides with the 16 days of activism against women and child abuse. Young people will be asked to commit to rejecting violence against women and children. There will also be a session dedicated to anti-human trafficking.

“This has never happened before. Our young people need the space to celebrate their faith. In these challenging and unsettling times, there is a need for young people to remain strong and fervent and not allow themselves to be dominated by forces that wish to derail them,” Gabuza said.

The programme includes lessons on faith and prayer which will be led by some of the bishops.

Bishop Dabula Mpako, from the diocese of Queenstown, said that this event is a “great moment of revival and renewal in faith for our young Catholics”. He went on to say that he would really like young people to leave MWYD being “hope-filled and hopeful young people”.

The closing Mass of MWYD will be celebrated by Archbishop Peter Wells – the Papal Nuncio to South Africa, Botswana, Swaziland, Lesotho and Namibia. The Archbishop told Spotlight Africa that he thought it was wonderful that young people were coming together face to face and not just on social media. “MWYD offers them the opportunity to share their hopes and their concerns in the context of their faith.”

Wells went on to say that there are many reasons for youth to be afraid and worried about their future. “Challenges such as unemployment, the turmoil in the world, the environment and so many other things weigh heavily on them. Notwithstanding these things, whenever they gather together to express their love for God, they embody the joys and dreams of tomorrow.” The Archbishop said that he was looking forward to the event and knows that he will leave with a “sense of consolation and hope for the future of the world”.

Spotlight Africa had a team on the ground in Durban for MWYD. For coverage of the event, interviews and videos follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and  Follow the latest news.  SA.

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* The opinions expressed here by Spotlight.Africa contributors and editors are their own and not official statements of the Society of Jesus in South Africa or of the Catholic Church unless explicitly stated.


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Mini World Youth Day — Durban style