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World Youth Day guidelines emphasize importance of diocesan celebrations

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An American pilgrim meets and photographs new friends at World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland. Photo by Patrick J. Buechi

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The annual diocesan celebration of World Youth Day is an important event that emphasizes the role young people play in the Catholic Church, the Vatican said.

In a document published by the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life on May 18, the Vatican issued a set of pastoral guidelines for local WYD celebrations “to ensure that younger generations feel that they are at the center of the church’s attention and pastoral concern.”

“The celebration of these youth days at a local level is therefore extremely useful in keeping the church mindful of the importance of walking with young people and of welcoming them and listening to them with patience while proclaiming the word of God to them with affection and power,” it stated.

The document was signed by Cardinal Kevin Farrell, dicastery prefect, and Schonstatt Father Alexandre Awi Mello, dicastery secretary. Divided into six chapters, it said local celebrations offer young people “a personal experience of a ‘festival of faith,'” which is especially important for those who cannot attend the international event “because of studies, work or financial difficulties.”

World Youth Day is celebrated annually on a local level and every two or three years with an international gathering with the pope. In November, Pope Francis moved the local celebrations of World Youth Day from Palm Sunday to the feast of Christ the King.

Speaking with journalists at a Vatican press briefing May 16, Father Awi said the annual diocesan celebration “can more easily generate a commitment in young people that will change the face of the society in which they live and increase their sense of belonging.”

Through these “pastoral guidelines, we would like to make all young people participants in this rich heritage. Their pastors and the various services of youth ministry of the particular churches will thus be able, with pastoral freedom and creativity, to enrich their local experience of the ‘youth festival,'” he said.

Paul Jarzembowski, assistant director for youth and young adult ministries at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, told Catholic News Service that the guidelines are a great help for local churches to “use this annual liturgical moment to mobilize the youth and young adults in their area.”

“World Youth Day, by its very name and nature, is meant for every young person in the world,” Jarzembowski said. “No one is excluded or can excuse themselves. This means that church leaders should do everything they can to accompany every single youth and young adult in their area.”

The local WYD celebrations, he added, can help young people, especially those who are unable to attend the international celebration or who are not active in their faith community, to “know how much Christ and the church loves, supports and wants to journey with them.”

Jarzembowski told CNS the U.S. bishops’ conference is currently developing a guidebook to help dioceses apply the guidelines “for the upcoming and future celebrations” of World Youth Day.

“We anticipate releasing this guidebook in late summer or early fall to give parish leaders adequate time to plan for this liturgical occasion in late November 2021,” he said. “The USCCB Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth will also be supporting diocesan leaders with resources for planning activities or initiatives around the celebration.”

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