The World

Pope asks young people at diocesan WYD: "Stand up and bear witness!"

The diocesan edition of World Youth Day 2021 (WYD) takes place on the Solemnity of Jesus Christ King of the Universe, which is celebrated this Sunday, the 21st. The motto is "Arise! I make you a witness of the things you have seen"., inspired by the Lord's words to St. Paul on his way to Damascus. Pope Francis encourages to "get up".

Rafael Miner-November 21, 2021-Reading time: 5 minutes

Photo: ©2021 Catholic News Service / U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

"The verse that inspires the theme of World Youth Day 2021 is taken from Paul's testimony before King Agrippa, while he was detained in prison. He, once an enemy and persecutor of Christians, is now on trial for his faith in Christ. Some twenty-five years had passed when the Apostle narrates his story and the fundamental episode of his encounter with Christ", writes the Pope in his Messagesigned on the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross this year.

It is a papal text that is part of a cycle of three messages that accompany young people on the journey between WYD Panama 2019 and Lisbon 2023. All of them focus on the verb "to rise up".

"Today, once again, God says to each of you: 'Arise!'" the Pope says. "I hope with all my heart that this message will help us prepare for new times, for a new page in the history of humanity. But, dear young people, it is not possible to begin again without you. To get back on its feet, the world needs your strength, enthusiasm and passion. In this regard, I would like us to meditate together on the passage from the Acts of the Apostles in which Jesus says to Paul: 'Arise! I make you a witness of the things you have seen' (cf. Acts 26:16)".

Conversion of St. Paul

The 2021 Day invites young people to reflect and meditate on the conversion of St. Paul, who went from being a "persecutor-executor" to a "disciple-witness." In this context, and following the Damascus episode, the Pope guides young people to discover God's unconditional love for each of us. "The Lord chose someone who had even persecuted Him, who had been completely hostile to Him and His own. But there is no person who is irretrievable for God. Through a personal encounter with Him it is always possible to start again. No young person is beyond the reach of God's grace and mercy", writes the Holy Father.

On the other hand, the Pontiff notes that Paul's attitude before his encounter with the risen Jesus is not strange to young people, since the Apostle had strength and passion in his heart, even though he was fighting "a senseless battle." For this reason, he explains, it is essential to open one's eyes to see correctly, and to avoid getting lost in destructive ideologies.

"How many young people today, perhaps driven by their own political or religious convictions, end up becoming instruments of violence and destruction in the lives of many! Some, digital natives, find in the virtual realm and in social networks the new battlefield, unscrupulously using the weapon of fake news to spread venom and destroy their adversaries." the Pope points out.

Hence the importance, remember, of emphasizing that when the Lord broke into Paul's life, "did not annul his personality, did not erase his zeal and passion, but made his talents bear fruit to make him the great evangelizer to the ends of the earth".

"In the name of Christ, I say to you."

The Pope then strongly invites the young people: "Rise up and bear witness!", "You will be my witness!". "Today Christ's invitation to Paul is addressed to each and every one of you, young people: get up! You cannot remain lying on the ground feeling sorry for yourself, there is a mission awaiting you! You too can be a witness to the works that Jesus has begun to accomplish in you. Therefore, in the name of Christ, I say to you: 

- Arise and bear witness to your experience as a blind man who has found the light, who has seen the good and beauty of God in himself, in others and in the communion of the Church that overcomes all loneliness. 

- Arise and bear witness to the love and respect that can be established in human relationships, in family life, in the dialogue between parents and children, between young and old. 

- Stand up and defend social justice, truth, honesty and human rights; the persecuted, the poor and vulnerable, those who have no voice in society and immigrants. 

- Arise and bear witness to the new look that makes you see creation with amazed eyes, that makes you recognize the earth as our common home and that gives you the courage to defend integral ecology. 

- Arise and witness that failed existences can be rebuilt, that people who have already died in spirit can rise again, that enslaved people can become free, that hearts oppressed by sadness can find hope again.

 - Rise up and witness with joy that Christ lives! Spread his message of love and salvation among your contemporaries, at school, at university, at work, in the digital world, everywhere."

From Panama 2019 to Lisbon 2023

International WYD celebrations usually take place every three years in different countries with the participation of the Holy Father. The last one took place in Panama 2019, and the next one, as is known, will be Lisbon 2023. This was announced by the Holy Father on January 27, 2019, at the end of the Panamanian WYD. Subsequently, the appointment in Lisbon (Portugal) was set for August 2023, because of the pandemic.

The ordinary celebration of WYD, on the other hand, takes place every year in the particular Churches, which organize the event autonomously, and which also serves as a way of preparing for WYD Lisbon 2023, as explained by the Dicastery Vatican for the Laity, Family and Life. 

This dicastery, presided over by Cardinal Kevin Farrell, published a few months ago the document Pastoral guidelinesfor the celebration of World Youth Day in the particular Churches, as reported by Omnes. This is a celebration in the dioceses that "has great meaning and value not only for the young people living in that particular region, but for the entire local ecclesial community," Cardinal Farrell notes in a text approved by Pope Francis, and signed on April 22, 2021, the anniversary of the presentation of the WYD Cross to the youth.

The celebration "serves to sensitize and form the entire ecclesial community - laity, priests, consecrated persons, families, adults and older people - to become increasingly aware of their mission to transmit the faith to the new generations," adds the document, which cites the General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the theme "Young People, Faith and Vocational Discernment," which took place in 2018.

A bit of history

"The institution of World Youth Days was undoubtedly a great prophetic intuition of St. John Paul II, who explained his decision thus: 'All young people must feel cared for by the Church: therefore, may the whole Church, in union with the Successor of Peter, feel ever more committed, on a worldwide level, to young people, to their concerns and worries, to their openness and hopes, to correspond to their expectations, communicating the certainty which is Christ, the Truth which is Christ, the love which is Christ....'. This is what is stated in the above-mentioned document of the Dicastery for the Laity, the Family and Life.

"Pope Benedict XVI took up the baton from his predecessor and, on several occasions, has not failed to stress how these events represent a providential gift for the Church and called them 'medicine against the weariness of believing,' 'a new, rejuvenated way of being Christian,' 'a new evangelization lived.'"

"For Pope Francis, too," Cardinal Kevin Farrell continues, "World Youth Days constitute a missionary impulse of extraordinary strength for the whole Church and, in particular, for the younger generations. Just a few months after his election, he inaugurated his pontificate with WYD in Rio de Janeiro in July 2013, at the end of which he said that WYD was 'a new stage in the pilgrimage of young people with the Cross of Christ through the continents.

"We must never forget that World Youth Days are not 'fireworks,' moments of enthusiasm, ends in themselves; they are stages of a long journey, begun in 1985, at the initiative of Pope John Paul II," as Pope Francis pointed out in 2013, and the document reports. "Let us always remember: young people do not follow the Pope, they follow Jesus Christ, carrying his Cross. The Pope guides and accompanies them on this journey of faith and hope," the Holy Father added. 

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