The Key Themes of World Youth Day 2013 | William
L. Patenaude | CWR
The words and actions of Pope Francis in Brazil built directly on the evangelizing work of his predecessors
Two valuable lessons came out of World Youth Day 2013. The first is that the Holy Spirit is intent on igniting with joy and resilience the post-conciliar Church of the twenty-first century. The second is that, in large part due to the catechetical influences of Bl. John Paul II and Benedict XVI, Pope Francis’s flock can better balance the joys of the Spirit with the Cross of Christ.
It will be helpful, then, to ponder some themes from Rio’s World Youth Day because it is highly likely we’ll be encountering them repeatedly as an energized Pope Francis shepherds his flock deeper into the twenty-first century.
and Make Disciples
“Where does Jesus send us? There are no borders, no limits: he sends us to everyone. The Gospel is for everyone, not just for some. It is not only for those who seem closer to us, more receptive, more welcoming. It is for everyone. Do not be afraid to go and to bring Christ into every area of life, to the fringes of society, even to those who seem farthest away, most indifferent. The Lord seeks all, he wants everyone to feel the warmth of his mercy and his love.” — Pope Francis’s closing homily, World Youth Day, 2013.
Popes, bishops, and even laity have said and written much during these past few years on the New Evangelization. When planning for World Youth Day 2013 began during the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI the time had come to urge the Church to act. Thus the theme “Go and make disciples” seemed fitting for an event that draws millions of young people and many millions more (of every age) through social media.
But then Benedict XVI’s doctors told him that he could no longer travel by air. And it seemed likely that even if he could he might not have the strength that World Youth Day schedules demand. (One wonders how much his being unable to travel to Rio de Janeiro influenced his decision to cede the Chair of St. Peter.)
The question of whether the pope would attend World Youth Day vanished with the papal transition. Pope Francis brought to the world stage a bold and gregarious personality. He changed the rules of papal engagement and accelerated the use of social media. He continues to bring his own style to the papacy, one that resonates in a world of political uncertainty, economic struggle, and a growing weariness with impersonal spirituality.
With a stronger, younger body than his predecessor’s, Pope Francis began charging into crowds—which, come to think of it, seems natural to do for those who espouse an incarnational faith. Once inside the crowds, whether in Rome or Rio or wherever, he is especially happy when he meets those on the outskirts.
We see the fruits of this charging in and greeting the outskirts by listening to those who are not at all enamored with Catholicism but are attracted to Pope Francis.