Rome (Italy). On 27 September 2021, the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life communicated the theme of Pope Francis’ message to young people on the occasion of the XXXVI World Youth Day 2021. For the first time, it will be celebrated on the Solemnity of Christ the King of the Universe, on 21 November 2021, in local Churches around the world:

“Stand up! I appoint you as a witness of what you have seen!” (cf. Acts 26:16)

In the Message, the Holy Father expresses the desire “Once again I would like to take you by the hand and walk with you on the spiritual pilgrimage that leads to the 2023 World Youth Day of Lisbon.   

The Messages of the Pope towards the event of 2023 are centered on the verb “stand up”. The theme of WYD 2020 was: “Young man, I tell you, arise!” (Lk 7:14) and accompanied the time of the pandemic, in which many young people were seen “helping to save lives, sowing seeds of hope, upholding freedom and justice, and acting as peacemakers and bridge builders”.

Pope Francis addresses them with a new appeal: “Today, once again, God says to each of you, ‘Arise!’ I fervently hope that this Message may help us prepare for new times and a new page in the history of humanity.  Yet we cannot begin anew without you, dear young people. If our world is to arise, it needs your strength, your enthusiasm, your passion”.

He then invites them to meditate on the conversion of Saint Paul, who from “persecutor executioner” becomes a “disciple witness” and guides them to discover God’s unconditional love for every person,

“The Lord chose someone who was persecuting Him, completely hostile to Him and His followers. We see that, in God’s eyes, no one is lost. Thanks to a personal encounter with Him, we can always start over again. No young person is ever beyond the reach of God’s grace and mercy”.

“Stand up and witness!” Paul’s invitation is addressed, today, to each and every young person. Pope Francis offers them some concrete indications on how to “stand up” and “become witnesses” to the many peers they meet “on the ‘streets of Damascus’ of our time”:  “bear witness to one’s experience of encounter with the Light, love, and respect in relationships, uphold social justice, truth, and integrity, human rights. Protect the persecuted, the poor and the vulnerable, those who have no voice in society, immigrants, etc.”.

In order for the ‘diocesan WYD’ to be lived fully as a time of celebration ‘for young people’ and ‘with young people’, the Dicastery for the Laity, Family, and Life has published the Resource Pastoral Orientations for  the Celebration of World Youth Day in the local Churches, intended for Episcopal Conferences, Synods of Patriarchal Churches, and Major Archbishops, dioceses/eparchies, ecclesial movements and associations, and last but not least, for young people from all over the world.

The Orientation recalls the guidelines of the General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the theme: “Young people, faith, and vocational discernment” (2018): “The celebration of these Youth Days at the local level is extremely useful to keep alive in the ecclesial awareness of the urgency of walking with young people, welcoming them, and listening to them with patience, proclaiming the Word of God to them with affection and energy.”

The three-year journey will end in 2023, with the meeting of all the young people of the world in Lisbon, Portugal, to celebrate the XXXVII WYD on the theme: “Mary arose and went with haste.” (Lk 1:39).

“The Church has  many things to say to young people and young people have  many things to say to the Church”

(John Paul II, Christifideles laici, 46)


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