ROME – Youth Days are celebrated at the local, diocesan and parish levels every year on Palm Sunday. Every three years, it is solemnly celebrated at the world level, with the Pope, in a particular country. In 2016, it was in Krakow, the next World Youth Day gathering will be in Panama in 2019.
The Pontifical Council for the Laity’s Youth Section organized in Rome (Mater Ecclesiae) this year, the 32nd Youth Days, a 5-day international forum from 5 to 9 April 2017, with the theme ” From Krakow to Panama, the Synod with the young people. ” Fr. Tony Zghendi, Youth Assistant of the Latin Vicariate of Nazareth, Wissam Abu-Zhaia of Nazareth and Mughannam Gneim, Youth Leader of Palestine, participated on behalf of the Latin Patriarchate and the Holy Land.
The young people who participated were nearly 300, from almost 100 countries. The churches in the Middle East were able to send thirteen delegates from Lebanon, the Holy Land, Iraq, the Arab Emirates, the Gulf and Egypt.
The purpose of the congress was threefold: to prepare the Church to the Synod of Bishops on “Youth, Faith and Vocational Discernment” to be held in October 2018; to assess the experience of WYD in Krakow (July 2016); and to prepare for WYD in Panama which will take place in January 2019.
The program focused on three main areas: general meetings, with presentations from the leaders of the Synod of Bishops, the dioceses of Krakow and Panama, and the Pontifical Council for the Laity; crossroads to groups in which national, regional and local leaders as well as young people were able to express themselves. It was in this setting that Fr. Tony and our young people presented their report. The third area being in the liturgical and cultural events, such as Cardinal Kevin Farrell welcoming the participants, an evening of the ‘Gen Rosso ‘ and ‘Gen Verde’ concert, the Saturday Vigil with the Pope at the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, and the procession and Mass with Pope Francis on Palm Sunday. One of the most significant event was the handing over of the “WYD Cross” by the youth from Krakow to the young people of Panama in St. Peter’s Square.
Upon his return to Nazareth , Fr. Tony Zghend presented his report to Bishop Marcuzzo, emphasizing that : “I am very pleased to have been able to participate in this forum. The testimony from WYD in Krakow were very touching; the preparations, still distant but already well under way, for the WYD in Panama is encouraging; the reflection that the whole Church is doing for the young people in preparation for the Synod of Bishops is really exciting and everything experienced in this forum was very rewarding. ”