"WYD 2023 will probably be a success". The optimistic forecast about World Youth Day, which will take place in Lisbon from August 1 to 6 next year, comes from the words of Father João Chagas, head of the Youth Office of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life. The cleric, who on behalf of the Vatican body is helping the local committee of the Portuguese capital to organize the event, explains that throughout the world, after the resurgence of the pandemic, "there is a very great desire to start again, to meet. Some delegates from various bishops' conferences have told me that young people are impatient to be able to participate in the next WYD, even though more than four years have passed since the last meeting". All this bodes well and, adds Father Chagas, "I am sure that there will be a very large turnout.
What assistance is the Vatican Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life providing to the local committee to prepare for WYD 2023?
The dicastery keeps the memory of all previous WYD, we are a point of union and the guarantors of fidelity to the original project, which has been updated along the way. For this, there is a memorandum, an operative scheme. As Pope Francis says: we must remember the past in order to have courage in the present and hope for the future. We are the memory of the past and we try to encourage in the present by walking together with the local organizing committee.
In your opinion, how are the pandemic and the war in Ukraine affecting the preparations for WYD 2023?
The first concrete effect is that this WYD has been moved by one year: it was actually supposed to be held in 2022. In 2019 and 2021, the preparatory meetings between the local organizing committee and the central one in Rome were not so frequent, but now everything is intensifying. However, having moved it is helping us a lot in the preparation.
Will young people get involved in WYD 2023 despite the worrying international climate?
In my opinion, young people will be more involved than in previous editions. When there are difficulties, young people bring out the best in themselves: resilience, the courage to overcome obstacles. And this happens especially if one has the strength of faith. A confirmation is found in the way volunteers from Lisbon and Portugal are giving the best of themselves to organize the event in a climate that remains uncertain.
Do you think that this edition of WYD will also attract the interest of young people who are far from the faith?
In Rome there is a youth pastoral center linked to our dicastery that keeps the original WYD cross and there I usually meet many groups from different countries in which there are always young atheists or believers but not practicing. I must say that on their part I see a lot of interest in WYD and in the Church. Once, one of these young people, after attending a papal audience, told me that he was very impressed by the fact that a figure like the Pope can be an extraordinary point of union between so many people from different cultures and realities. We can say, then, that WYD is also for everyone, because the experience of faith that is lived there is expressed in so many themes, shared also with those who do not believe.
How will young people who cannot go to Lisbon be involved so as not to run the risk of excluding them?
The Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life and the Lisbon organizing committee have a great desire to make WYD 2023 as media-friendly as possible. Many bishops' conferences and dioceses around the world are preparing events at the same time and in connection with Lisbon so that those who cannot attend can follow not only the events with the Pope but also the many cultural and spiritual activities that will take place during those days.