Podcast – 2023, April 12
The theme of World Youth Day (WYD) is Marian and one of the dioceses closest to Lisbon, where WYD will take place from 1 to 6 August, is Leiria-Fatima, a place the Pope will visit, fulfilling the tradition of going to the most relevant Marian shrine in the country that hosts the Catholic event for young people with the greatest expression. For this reason, to ask the Youth Ministry of Leiria-Fatima how it is preparing for this period is to know what is being prepared to welcome and accompany the youngest, whether in the group that will represent the diocese in Lisbon or in the reception of groups on the Days of the dioceses.
Cristiana Lopes is one of the faces of the WYD Diocesan Organising Committee. She guarantees expectations are high.
“We will do our best, knowing that we will be offering a first experience to many young people who will be coming to Fatima for the first time” says the young woman in an interview that can be heard in full on the podcast #fatimanoseculoXXI, available at www.fatima.pt/podcast and on the Itunes and Spotify platforms.
“It will be extraordinary to introduce young people to Fatima; to show them what is so special about this place that led Our Lady to appear to three children and for them to obey her requests,” she adds, recalling that “the whole story told in the event and the Message of Fatima are extraordinary”.
“All this awakens a great curiosity in young people who, although they know that Fatima exists, have little information about the message of humility left by these children,” stresses Cristiana Lopes.
“They teach us that we have the possibility to do more for others, starting with our prayers, but also with our action,” she emphasizes. “Do we open our arms to others, or do we guide them into the arms of the Blessed Virgin? This will be fundamental”.
That is why the organising committee of the diocese of Leiria-Fatima chose the first two saints of Fatima as their patrons.
“They are the diocesan patrons of the Day because they are an example of humility and closeness,” she says, recalling that many of the proposals that are being developed, such as the pilgrimage itineraries, have the little shepherds as protagonists.
“The pilgrimage experience on foot will be very interesting and could be one of the highlights of these proposals” she stresses.
“The journeys will be accompanied by different personages – the Blessed Virgin, the Angel, the Little Shepherds – and through their words we will offer a knowledge of the message,” she reveals, announcing that the diocese is preparing to receive numerous groups, many of them with different rites, and that, in the host families, there are even people outside the Catholic religion.
“This dialogue is fundamental” she says, recalling that the Pope himself has asked that the meeting should also bear fruit in interreligious dialogue.
The young woman from Leiria-Fátima also reflects on the “day after”.
“This mobilisation of young people will also show that the Church is for young people”, especially for “those who want to get involved”.
“In Leiria Fatima we decided to propose to people of our Diocese to go to the Day as a single group; we took this decision for a pastoral reason: to be close to them and to establish a relationship with them so that we can continue to work together after the WYD,” she underlines.
“Young people have a place for God” she says, as long as we are able to “bear witness”.
“Whenever there is a retreat, a fraternal get-together or a Shema meeting, young people leave with their hearts on fire. This already means that they want more. We have to know how to accompany them so that they don't lose the fire in their hearts and so that we can fan the flames.”
“There is so much distraction, there is so much scrolling on Instagram; maybe what we need is to know how to inhabit that space and become relevant there, with young people,” she adds.
“Everyone needs to reflect on what kind of witness they are. Looking at the Church as a whole, and at what the media says about the Church, many young people may think that this Church thing is not for them, and this can discourage them from coming. It's up to us to change this, in every moment and in every environment,” she concludes.