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Let’s bring World Youth Day to Britain

A World Youth Day here in 2012 or 2013 would build on the momentum of the Benedict bounce

By on Monday, 4 October 2010

Spanish pilgrims in Sydney react as Pope Benedict XVI announces that World Youth Day 2011 will take place in Madrid (Photo: PA)

Spanish pilgrims in Sydney react as Pope Benedict XVI announces that World Youth Day 2011 will take place in Madrid (Photo: PA)

As the Holy Father woke up on the morning after his return to Castel Gandolfo, volunteers manning the phones at the Catholic Enquiry Office in London were beginning to cope with hundreds of calls asking about the Catholic faith.  Among those phoning was a Sikh woman, who wanted to know how she could convert.

Already, on the Pope’s final afternoon in Britain, Cardinal Keith O’Brien had told him that this would be the effect: “Be assured, Holy Father,” he said at Oscott, “that we are bouncing back.”

The least that can be said is that he has detoxified the Catholic brand after many months of vilification and hatred. Now, when the British think of the Church, they think of a wholly benign, gentle, and at the same time powerful figure, blessing, consecrating, teaching, in his iconic person exemplifying the faith.

Above all, he left in the mind the image of a religion to which young people can respond: this is what needs to be built on now. Not, please God, by youth officers in diocesan bureaucracies, but by organisations like Youth 2000, which doesn’t focus on any jazzy new theology or gimmicks, but on an authentic rediscovery of the basics: Mass, confession, prayer, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

This has little to do with the clerical bureaucracies that plague the Church and sap its vitality. The point is, as the Newman scholar Fr Ian Ker has written of the new movements in the Church (and writing with particular reference to Youth 2000): “It is this apostolic and charismatic rather than clerical-lay institutional Church which the movements have succeeded in recovering for the next millennium.”

Youth is the key: which brings me to the World Youth Days through the years. Browsing through the Herald’s debate on the Benedict bounce, I was intrigued by the suggestion that the next step for us could be to bring the WYD to Britain. “Britain” writes M J Carroll, “is the only major European country never to have hosted the event. The sight of 2 million young people descending on London in 2012 or 2013 would be an eye opener to both non-Catholics & Non-believers alike”. To which he might have added the focus on the Church that a year or two’s anticipation of such a major event would bring.

Just as I was agreeing strongly with this suggestion, I was startled to see my own name mentioned: uncanny or what, I thought. Mr Carroll suggests that I should give the link, which I willingly do here, to a film on the World Youth Days there have already been. Watch it and you will see that the millions who have come to Pope Benedict’s WYDs are no less stirred by him than they were, even in the days of his youth and vigour, by Pope John Paul. That’s the next thing, then: World Youth Day. Here. Soon.

  • (Rev) P A Comensoli

    A really great idea (having been to 4 of them myself). But the next 'non-Rome' WYD (after Madrid next year) is likely be 2014, as the international gathering tends to be every three years or so.

  • Bwaj

    Brilliant idea

  • Bwaj

    I would like to let everyone know about the national 'NOT ASHAMED DAY' which has been launched by 'CHRISTIAN CONCERN FOR THE BENEFIT OF CHURCH AND NATION'. This is a copy of the 'NOTIFICATION' I placed on my blog on MYSPACE.COM on Sunday 3 October 2010:
    ''CHRISTIAN CONCERN FOR THE BENEFIT OF CHURCH AND NATION' has launched it's campaign 'NOT ASHAMED' calling on all Christians to wear the Symbol of our Faith – the Cross – or the 'NOT ASHAMED' logo which has the Cross in it esp. on national 'NOT ASHAMED DAY' (Wednesday 1st December 2010). I hope all believers, throughout the world, irrespective of their denomination, rich or poor, famous or unknown will visit their website, offer their support and wear the Sign of our Faith on 'NOT ASHAMED DAY' (Wednesday 1st December 2010).'

    Please can I ask all believers to make their faith more visible, e.g. as the Archbishop of Westminster did in his 24 September 2010 'PASTORAL LETTER', by making the Sign of the Cross and saying '”God bless you”'. If possible please can all believers consider displaying the Faith by wearing a cross or better still a crucifix?

  • MJCarroll

    I'm really pleased that William Oddie wrote this article. I hope he will not mind but, I am one that 'strikes while the iron is hot'. I have sent this link to every Diocesan Youth Worker in the UK as well as every Local Youth Group I was able to find through the internet. I have also contacted Youth 2000 and New Dawn Youth Ministries directly. It is rare to get such a striking headline for something so worth while and the next step will be the Bishops. It will take some doing but we need to get people who work in Youth Ministry talking about this and although these people can not take specific responsibility – they are however, in a unique position to say 'the right things to the right people'. Bishop's everywhere watch out! Thanks to William once again!

  • WestminsterYAYA

    You know it makes sense

  • Dan

    I think a WYD would do wonders for the faith in the UK. Not sure 1 – 2m people would fit in Hyde Park. So might have to be outside of London, but that's fine. Could have preparation events in London. Would be amazing!!

  • Francesco lay