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During his Angelus address on 28 July 2002, at the conclusion of the 17th World Youth Day in Toronto, Pope John Paul II said: “This World Youth Day must mark a re-awakening of pastoral attention to the young in Canada. May the enthusiasm of this moment be the spark that is needed to launch a new era of powerful witness to the gospel!… My wish for all of you who are here is that the commitments you have made during these days of faith and celebration will bring forth abundant fruits of dedication and witness. May you always treasure the memory of Toronto!”
The experiences of young people during World Youth Days leave a deep and lasting impression upon them and also serve as a catalyst and impulse for new commitments and initiatives. What do young people experience during World Youth Days? Who do they encounter? The principal elements of World Youth Days contribute greatly to an effective pastoral ministry with young people and with them. These elements – Christ, Sacred Scripture, catechesis, the sacraments (especially Reconciliation and Eucharist), piety, devotion, the World Youth Day Cross, the saints, together with the moments of pilgrimage, the Youth Festival, social service projects, vocations – hopefully find a central place in our pastoral efforts with young people.
A very positive fruit of World Youth Days is the Scriptural theme assigned to each event. The theme of 31st World Youth Day, Krakow 2016 is“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Mt 5:7).
During the major international World Youth Days in various countries of the world, hundreds of Bishops and Cardinals also attend as catechists. Each day during the World Youth Day week, thousands of young people gather around their bishops and cardinals to hear teachings, “catecheses,” reflections based on the Word of God. This novel invention has taken on a life of its own, and become an intrinsic part of the international celebrations of faith and youth culture.
Here is a look at how this year’s theme of this year’s international celebration in Krakow as well as how that theme will be developed through the daily catecheses or teachings of the bishops of the world chosen to be bishop catechists. Catechesis will generally be given in the bishop’s first language. Each of the three catecheses will be held in a different venue.
On July 27, 28 and 29 July catechesis will be given in different languages for the young people present in Krakow. About three hundred bishops from around the world will serve as catechists. Each bishop catechist will give three catecheses on the topics below. I share them here not only for those attending World Youth Day in Krakow but for the many groups who are unable to travel to Poland and will celebrate World Youth Days at home, gathered around their bishops and pastors.
Wednesday 27 July – 1st catechesis
Topic: Now is the time of mercy!
“Many question in their hearts: why a Jubilee of Mercy today? Simply because the Church, in this time of great historical change, is called to offer more evident signs of God’s presence and closeness. This is a time for the Church to rediscover the meaning of the mission entrusted to her by the Lord on the day of Easter: to be a sign and an instrument of the Father’s mercy (cf. Jn 20:21-23). A year in which to be touched by the Lord Jesus and to be transformed by his mercy, so that we may become witnesses to mercy” (Pope Francis, Homily during First Vespers of Divine Mercy Sunday, 11 April 2015).
Scripture: Lk 4:1-21
Thursday 28 July – 2nd catechesis
Topic: Let us allow ourselves to be touched by Christ’s mercy
“You, dear young man, dear young woman, have you ever felt the gaze of everlasting love upon you, a gaze that looks beyond your sins, limitations and failings, and continues to have faith in you and to look upon your life with hope? Do you realise how precious you are to God, who has given you everything out of love?” (Pope Francis, WYD Message 2016).
Scripture: Lk 15: 1-10
Friday 29 July – 3rd catechesis
Topic: Lord, make me an instrument of your mercy!
“Help me, O Lord, that my eyes may be merciful, so that I may never suspect or judge from appearances, but look for what is beautiful in my neighbours’ souls and come to their rescue.
Help me, that my ears may be merciful, so that I may give heed to my neighbours’ needs and not be indifferent to their pains and moanings.
Help me, O Lord, that my tongue may be merciful, so that I should never speak negatively of my neighbour, but have a word of comfort and forgiveness for all.
Help me, O Lord, that my hands may be merciful and filled with good deeds.
Help me, that my feet may be merciful, so that I may hurry to assist my neighbour, overcoming my own fatigue and weariness.
Help me, O Lord, that my heart may be merciful so that I myself may feel all the sufferings of my neighbour” (St Faustina Kowalska Diary, 163).
Scripture – Mt 25: 31-46
Bishops are encouraged to give extemporaneous teachings that offer examples and significant anecdotes. Young people appreciate simple authoritative replies to their questions. That is why bishops are strongly encouraged to bring their own stories and witness into the catechesis, and to present the young people with examples of positive role-models (lives of saints; young “heroes” like Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati and Blessed Chiara Luce Badano; the patrons of WYD 2016 St John Paul II and St Faustina).
Bishop catechists are asked to develop the day’s topic in a talk of around 20 minutes. This is followed by adequate time for questions by the young people and answers by the bishop. Each day, catechesis will conclude with Holy Mass presided by the bishop catechist who will give a short homily. The Mass readings are as follows:
Wednesday 27 July
Catechesis topic: Now is the time of mercy!
Votive Mass of the Divine Mercy – Eucharistic prayer V/C
Eph 2: 4-10
Ps 135 (136) (R/ His mercy endures forever)
Thursday 28 July
Catechesis topic: Let us allow ourselves to be touched by Christ’s mercy
Mass for reconciliation – Eucharistic Prayer for Reconciliation I
Ps 50 (51) (R/ Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness)
Friday 29 July
Catechesis topic: Lord, make me an instrument of your mercy!
Votive Mass Mary, Queen & Mother of Mercy – Preface of Blessed Virgin Mary II
Ps 102 (103) (R/ The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting)
Lk 1: 39-55
During the three days of catechesis, all the groups of young people will be invited, in turn, to take part in the Pilgrimage of Mercy that will go from the John Paul II Shrine to the Divine Mercy Shrine.
Bishop catechists, pastors and youth leaders are invited to use Pope Francis’ Message to the Youth of the World for the 31st World Youth Day for their catechesis preparation. It is available in various languages on the Vatican website: