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Russian Catholic youth gather in St. Petersburg after WYD in Lisbon

From August 23-27, 2023, the 10th National Meeting of Catholic Youth of Russia took place in St. Petersburg, which this year was an extension of WYD Lisbon 2023.

Loreto Rios-August 28, 2023-Reading time: 4 minutes

Poster of the X National Meeting of Young Catholics of Russia

The 10th National Meeting of Young Catholics of Russia has been held since 2000. In 2023, the first time it is being held in St. Petersburg, it has attracted some 400 participants from 54 Russian cities and the four Catholic archdioceses of Russia. On August 25, Pope Francis addressed the event by videoconference, delivering a speech on the theme of the event. speechHe listened to the testimonies of the young people and answered some questions. His participation lasted a little over an hour.

A Russian WYD

On this occasion, the event has been conceived as an extension of the WYD Lisbon 2023 and followed a similar structure, with Masses in common and catechesis every morning in groups of 25-30 people based on the same themes that were discussed in Lisbon. The five bishops of the Russian Bishops' Conference participated: Paolo Pezzi, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of the Mother of God of Moscow (the main archdiocese of Russia), and Auxiliary Bishop Nikolai Dubinin; Clemens Pickel, of St. Clement of Saratov; Joseph Werth, of the Diocese of the Transfiguration in Novosibirsk; and Kirill Klimovich, of St. Joseph of Irkutsk.

In addition to young Russians, foreign students from Armenia, Azerbaijan, India and Colombia, among other countries, as well as religious and catechists also participated in the event.

The days opened in the parish of the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth in St. Petersburg, echoing the motto of WYD Lisbon, "Mary arose and departed without delay" (Lk 1:39). In addition to Masses, catechesis and prayer evenings, the meeting included festive moments and personal and communal prayer. As in Lisbon, the pilgrims were welcomed by parishes and Catholic families from St. Petersburg.

Catholics in Russia: less than 1 % of population

Oksana Pimenova, deputy director of the St. Thomas Institute in Moscow and one of the organizers of the meeting, told Fides Agency that "although the Catholic Church in Russia is made up of small communities scattered over a vast territory, we are united by a 'chain of handshakes': we do not all know each other directly, but we often have acquaintances in common, and moments like this help us to grow in communion and friendship with one another. Being together with people so different in origin and vocation means being able to recognize ourselves as part of a large family that knows no boundaries, whose members, despite their diversity, are called to be together".

During the day, two young Russian Catholics, Alexander and Varvara, gave their testimonies. After listening to them, Pope Francis gave a speech in Spanish, taking up some reflections on the theme of WYD Lisbon 2023.

Called and outbound

First of all, the Pope indicated that "God commands us to go out and walk (...) We are all chosen and called (...) before the talents we have, before our merits, before our obscurities and wounds, before everything we have been called. Called by name, you to you. God does not go to the heap, no. God goes from you to you.

Elizabeth, who was barren, and Mary, the Virgin: two women who became witnesses to the transforming power of God. God transforms. It is that experience of God's overflowing love that cannot fail to be shared. That is why Mary got up and left without delay, she was quick. She has to get up in a hurry. When God calls, we cannot sit still".

"God always welcomes".

The second idea that the Pope emphasized was that "God's love is for everyone and the Church belongs to everyone. God's love is recognized by his hospitality. God always welcomes, creates, creates space so that we all have a place and sacrifices himself for others, he is attentive to the needs of others. Mary stayed three months with Elizabeth, helping her in her needs. These two women are creating space for the new lives that are born: John the Baptist and Jesus.

But they also create space for each other, they communicate. The Church is a mother with an open heart, who knows how to welcome and receive, especially those who need more care. (...) Admission is free. And then let each one feel the invitation of Jesus to follow him, to see how he stands before God; and for this journey there are the teachings and the Sacraments. Let us remember the Gospel: when the master of the banquet sends for the crosses on the road, he says: 'Go and fetch everyone' (cfr. Mt. 22, 9)".

Young and old

Thirdly, Francis stressed that "it is vital that young people and the elderly open up to each other. The young, in meeting with the elderly, have the opportunity to receive the richness of their experiences and their experiences. And the elderly, in meeting with the young, find in them the promise of a future of hope. It is important, you young people, to dialogue with the elderly, to dialogue with grandparents, to listen to grandparents, to listen to that experience of life that goes beyond that of parents.

The meeting point between Mary and Elizabeth is dreams. They both dream. The young dream, the old dream. It is precisely the dream, the ability to dream, the vision of tomorrow that has kept and sustains generations together (...) Elizabeth, with the wisdom of the years - she was old - strengthens Mary, who was young and full of grace, guided by the Spirit".

"Artisans of peace".

Finally, the Pope commented that he wishes for the young Russians "the vocation to be artisans of peace in the midst of so many conflicts, in the midst of so many polarizations on all sides, which beset our world. I invite you to be sowers of seeds, seeds of reconciliation, small seeds that in this winter of war will not sprout for the moment in the frozen earth, but in a future spring they will blossom. As I said in Lisbon: have the courage to replace fears with dreams.(...) Give yourselves the luxury of dreaming big!"

In conclusion, the Holy Father used the Virgin Mary as an example, asking young people to "conceive" the Lord "in their hearts, and quickly, with haste, take him to those who are far away, take him to those who need him. Be a sign of hope, a sign of peace and joy, like Mary, so that with the same 'humility of her servant', you too can change the history you have to live".

Young Russians in Lisbon

Less than twenty pilgrims from Russia attended WYD in Lisbon, some of whom, although they came with the group, were foreign students. Only a dozen of this group were of Russian nationality.

For their part, 300 Ukrainian pilgrims took part in the WYD in Lisbon. You can read the chronicle about these groups here y here.

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