The bishops of Southern Africa have evaluated Mini World Youth Day (MWYD) which was held in Durban in December 2017 and concluded it to have been a great success. They have now decided to focus on similar events and World Youth Day (WYD) in Panama in January 2019.
In his opening address to the bishops Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Peter Wells, congratulated the SACBC for hosting a successful MWYD in Durban in December 2017. He encouraged the bishops to “maintain the momentum generated by this event”. He also challenged the bishops to find ways to engage with, and listen to, the youth. He said it was important not just to “give a voice to the younger generation, but to find ways that allow our young men and women to participate in the life of the Church.
After the nuncio's address, the plenary kept its focus on youth. Fr Mthembeni Dlamini, the SACBC National Youth Chaplain, thanked the bishops for the support they gave young people enabling them to participate in MWYD. Dlamini said that despite the challenges – some were around registration and accommodation – there was a general feeling amongst young people that MWYD was a success.
Spotlight was also told, from an independent source in Durban, that the financial cost of the event was still to be recovered. The number of young people that attended the event was lower than the excepted 5000. The full costs of the event has still not been recovered. On the other hand, many young people, Dlamini reported, appreciated the experience they had and requested that events of the same nature be organised in the future.
In his opening address the president of the conference, Archbishop Stephen Brislin, said that he was struck by the number of questions young people had at MWYD about life and faith and their limited opportunity to be able to voice those questions within the Church.
It took 2 years to organise MWYD. Dlamini thanked the different organising teams who worked hard so that the region could realise and host MWYD. The bishops offered their thanks to Dlamini and his team. Many of the bishops had, themselves, been at the event.
Dlamini said that attention had now shifted to WYD 2019 which will be held in Panama. A great task lies ahead to prepare and form young people for this event.
WYD was initiated by Pope John Paul II in 1985. It was conceptualised, originally, by the Light-Life Movement which has been in existence since the 1960's in Poland. In preparation for WYD in 1986, bishops were invited to schedule an annual youth event in their respective dioceses. MWYD has been the first big national event held for young people in Southern Africa.
In 1995 the WYD closing Mass set a record: some 5 million people gathered – the largest gathering in history for a single religious event – in the Philippines. This record was broken 20 years later when Pope Francis visited the Philippines and 6 million were reported to have attended the open-air Mass.
Dlamini, in his evaluation, also made an appeal to the bishops: give young people the best priests they have to be their chaplains. He also asked the bishops to help ensure that there is a good working relationship between the Youth Department of the SACBC and local diocesan structures.
Earlier on Brislin had proposed that forums or programmes be adopted to give young people a space to ask their questions in their own parishes so that there can be dialogue. The president said that this issue was urgent, noting that youth today are under enormous stress. He urged his fellow bishops, and the Church in Southern Africa, to identify ways in which youth can be given accompaniment.
The bishops, Spotlight was told, will look at the possibility of future such events for youth in Southern Africa as the plenary progresses in their deliberations.
Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of Durban told Spotlight – in an interview in December at MWYD – that the hosting of such an event – showed that South Africa was now ready to host WYD. WYD has never been hosted on the African continent.
Pictures by Paul Tatu
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