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World Youth Day wanted in South Africa

It’s time for World Youth Day to come to Africa and South Africa wants to host it say pilgrims, clergy and Cardinal Napier. 

“My dream is that World Youth Day will come to Africa; will come to South Africa.” These were the words of Cardinal Wilfrid Napier in an interview with Spotlight Africa during the region’s own local version called Mini World Youth Day (MWYD) which attracted 4,000 faithful. The cardinal added that his archdiocese, Durban, was the best place for the international event just as it was for MWYD.

“Many young people from Africa fail to attend World Youth Day because they are not able to afford the expenses associated with the event. The event was never held in Africa, but through organising Mini World Youth Day in South Africa, many young people feel strongly that Africa, through South Africa, is ready to host this big event,” said Fr Paul Tatu CSS, the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) communications officer.

The most recent World Youth Day (WYD) was attended by 2.5 million people in Krakow, Poland, last year. The next one will be in Panama in 2019.

“By being part of this event one feels that young people are the church of today and they have a new culture of enriching their faith as Catholics,” said Tatu. The youth “enjoy and appreciate their faith, but for a long time they were not understood. Through [MWYD] one realises the needs of young people and different ways of how we might reach young people in their own context.”

“The young people feel that they need to be with the pope in Africa. By hosting this event they are pushing for the leadership of the Church in Southern Africa to campaign for World Youth Day to be held here.”

The cardinal told Spotlight Africa that MWYD had far exceeded his expectations, describing it as “out of this world,” and adding that his dream would be to see WYD hosted in South Africa. “The initiative has to come from us; I think we will make an inquiry”.

Before WYD can come to the country, the cardinal said there would be more youth events organised by local dioceses. “There are going to be more of these sorts of events in the future,” he said, adding that the investment in youth was worthwhile for the Church. He encouraged young Catholics who had missed out on MWYD to make an effort to attend an event in the future, considering it an investment in their faith.

“There’s nothing more affirming than hearing other young people speaking about what difference God has made in their life through their faith,” Napier said.

SACBC Secretary General Sr Hermenegild Makoro CPS believes MWYD has been an inspiration to other Catholics. “This is something we need to work on. Mobilisation is critical and if we want to organise another event, we have to start now.” The SACBC Secretary General added that work needed to start at the level of the dioceses and not just the national office.

In agreement, Fr Patrick Rakeketsi CSS, Associate Secretary General of the SACBC, said the next steps included mobilising those at home to get them involved. During a speech made at the event, he asked the pilgrims if they were ready to host the pope and WYD, to which he received loud applause. “Bishops must nurture those dreams,” he said.

Fr Mthembeni Dlamini, Youth Chaplain and Coordinator of Youth Programmes in the SACBC, including the Association of Catholic Tertiary Students, said there was still a long way to go. The effort in pulling together MWYD was exceptional; welcoming millions of young Catholics will be something that “we must work towards, building upon what we’ve done here”.

Bishop Stanley Dziuba of Umzimkulu echoed this sentiment, adding that enthusiasm was one aspect of hosting the event, but mobilising more Catholics – parishes and people as well as government – would be critical to hosting an international event.

“This is the platform for young people to express themselves; to express their faith; and to get encouragement in their faith,” said the bishop.

Makoro said that there was great excitement from the bishops and an energy and a need to continue the investment in the youth. Similarly, the young pilgrims have responded positively. But while the excitement in seeing WYD come to the African continent was tangible at MWYD, serious consideration at all levels of the Church, and government, would be necessary to see this international Catholic event possibly come to South Africa. It would probably be 200 times larger than the local event. SA.

* 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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Claire Mathieson
Writer, editor and knowledge management specialist, Claire has worked in both traditional and Catholic media spaces. She balances her time between providing strategic communications and knowledge management in the world of climate change and sustainable development and as an associate editor on

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