The most beautiful picture was taken at the Camp “San Juan Pablo II – Metro Park” packed with youths attending the closing Mass. The invitation to adults is “to have faith and trust in the young.” For Father Alexandre Awi Mello, Secretary of the Dicastery for Laity, the Family, and Life, the just-ended WYD in Panama set out different options for further reflection to local Churches. He drew a balance of the event for SIR with a gaze extended towards Lisbon, the venue of the next youth meeting in 2022.
Father Awi Mello, another WYD – the 34th – has just ended. Like every world gathering a mosaic of countless pictures forms the memento of every participant. Which is your favourite one? Which of the many powerful messages could serve as a starting point for renewed thrust?
The Campo “San Juan Pablo II – Metro Park” packed with youths attending the closing Mass is the image that impressed me the most. Unquestionably the WYD in Panama was not one with the largest participation. Many young people had problems reaching Panama. Nonetheless,
Panama’s heart was big enough to welcome high numbers of people.
This shows that they managed to produce a beautiful WYD, also in terms of organized events. It was well-organized by a small, poor Country with a big heart.
Francis delivered many powerful messages. Which gesture or message had the greatest impact?
I am positively impressed by Pope Francis’ openness towards and closeness to young people. The Holy Father speaks in clear terms. And this I believe was very important also during this WYD. Once again, the Pope called upon young people to be the protagonists of their life, to carry out their mission, and he did so in very simple words. We have seen many strong gestures by the Pope, such as his welcoming approach to people, when speaking to detainees, greeting the members of non-Catholic faiths. Small gestures, but very beautiful ones.
Young people, with their vitality, with their doubts, with their suffering – and there was a lot of suffering to be seen in Panama – were the true protagonists. Do you consider this to be an important sign for our Churches?
Many people were involved in the organization of the WYD in Panama. Not only volunteers who joined in at end of the event but also those involved since the beginning. It further confirmed the extent of the contribution that youths can give. We must truly have faith in them and place reliance on them.
Now what can be done to ensure that the meeting in Panama does not remain an isolated event in the ordinary pastoral care of the young?
The Synod stated that the WYD and other events similar to this one must always be viewed in connection with ordinary youth ministry. This is always done. Many pastoral ministries were strengthened by the efforts put in a visit or a WYD in those Countries where they are carried out. In this respect I believe that in our home Countries it is natural for us to make this connection and make the most of the participation of young people in a WYD in our youth ministry carried out at local level. It can be said that now
we need to renew our commitment to the Synod and make further efforts.
For example, our Dicastery intends to propose an international forum with youths from world countries, thereby contributing to the present stage of implementation of the Synod and of all the proposals and suggestions that emerged therein. This must equally be connected with the experience of the WYD. Perhaps the Synod has been more than an experience of reflection, and the WYD has been a life experience. I think they go well together.
The next international WYD will be the 37th. Several years have gone by since the intuition of Saint John Paul II. Young people have changed, and with them also the surrounding social environment. Do you consider the WYD do be still valid? Or is there something that needs to integrated?
Certainly the WYD still carries deep value, its represents an experience of renewal for all participants. This is true not only for the youths but also for the hosting countries. The news reports of the Panamanian press testify to the significance and scope of the organization of the Day for the Country and society at large. Futhermore, young people have renewed and deepened their faith, their hope, their love for the Church and for Jesus. In this respect it unquestionably represents one of the most beautiful experiences inside the Church. It can be perfected with further initiatives and reflections. But in my view we are proceeding along a positive track. Perhaps in the next WYD some small changes will be made, but the proposal per se remains extremely valid.
Now a new journey begins towards Lisbon 2022…
Yes, the next international youth meeting will be in Portugal. We are extremely pleased that the Patriarchate has welcomed this challenge, along with the governments of the city and of the Country. As it is a European city, it will represent a challenge for the spiritual renewal of youths in Europe. We should always remember that youth is a relatively short phase of our life. Our youth passes very quickly. So at every WYD we see new generations. I am sure that Italians will be very happy that a WYD is being held in such a close Country. The coming years will be lived out as a time for renewal and growth of youth ministry and of the pastoral care of vocations in Italy.