World Youth Day blast off

Thu, 20th July 2006

Bishop Anthony Fisher op

Two years to go to the biggest youth event in the history of our nation. More than 150,000 young people from around the world will join a similar number of young Aussies for a week of catechesis and prayer, celebration and liturgy, festival and fun. By the end of that week from 15 – 20 July 2008 numbers will have swollen to over half a million.

But in the end it is not the numbers that matter. It is what it will do for some of our young people and for those who are touched in turn by them. Some will have a great time and that’s what they’ll remember. But for many it will be really life-changing. It is a dangerous thing to have that much fun with God and his Church! Who knows what he will do with you?! For as the theme states “You will receive power when the holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8)

WYD08 is a once in a life-time opportunity for us here in Australia to connect young people with every corner and apostolate of our Church and to renew our Church and society in the process. Young people need Christ and his Church in their searching, and the Church, in turn, needs young people for her renewal. In his letter to us here in Australia, Ecclesia in Oceania (2001), Pope John Paul II said:
Above all, the Fathers of the Synod wanted to touch the hearts of young people. Many young people are searching for truth and goodness, and their search can involve experimenting with the appeals and claims of the contemporary world, some of which are clearly destructive. This can create confusion in the young which leaves them at a loss to know what true values might be and where true happiness might be found. The great challenge and opportunity is to offer them the gifts of Jesus Christ in the Church, for these gifts alone will satisfy their yearning. But Christ must be presented in a way well adapted to the younger generation and the rapidly changing culture in which they live. (15)

The gift of World Youth Day is a new opportunity to give our young people these gifts of Jesus Christ in the Church and to build with and for and through them a new future.

This weekend we mark the two-year pre-anniversary of WYD08 by launching Activ8, our programme of evangelisation, catechesis and prayer with our young people to help prepare and activ8 them for one of the greatest experiences of their lives. But the young are not just passive recipients of the Gospel of Adults. They are disciples and evangelists themselves. Think of Mary at the time of the Annunciation or John at the time of the Crucifixion. They were teenagers, but what a difference they made! Echoing the thoughts of our region’s bishops, John Paul noted in Ecclesia in Oceania that he;

wanted to assure the youth of the Church in Oceania that they are… a vital part of the Church today, and that Church leaders are keen to find ways to involve young people more fully in the Church’s life and mission. Young Catholics are called to follow Jesus: not just in the future as adults, but now as maturing disciples…The Synod Fathers were convinced of the need for youth-to-youth ministry…(44)

Or as Pope Benedict XVI so beautifully said to the young people at Cologne;

If we let Christ into our lives, we lose nothing, absolutely nothing of what makes life free, beautiful and great. Only in this friendship is the great potential of human existence truly revealed … Open wide your hearts to God! Let yourselves be surprised by Christ! Open the doors of your freedom to his merciful love!

In the next few weeks all the parishes around Australia, the youth groups and movements and others will receive DVDs and booklets explaining what World Youth Day is, why we wanted one for Australia, what our plans are so far, how we see things panning out, and how you can be involved. A WYD curriculum will be in place for our schools. There will be events to mark the pre-anniversary.

To the young people of Australia we say: Get ready for the ride of your life! Let the Holy Spirit of God fill you with his power to become Christ’s witnesses to a new millennium. Be all that you can be and more. Be the young apostles of a new millennium.