On the occasion of the World Youth Day that takes place in Lisbon, Portugal, from the 1st to the 6th August 2023, we interviewed Br. Daniel Rodríguez Blanco, OFM, Director of the Office of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) of the General Curia in Rome, to illustrate the commitment of JPIC animators in the world meeting that Pope John Paul II conceived in 1985.
Br. Daniel, what will be the commitment of the Friars Minor and JPIC in Lisbon?
The JPIC General Office was present at the World Youth Day in Panama 2019 promoting integral ecology amongst young people. The experience was very positive especially because it was done in close collaboration with the Laudato Si’ Movement and together we have decided to be present at WYD Lisbon 2023 with various activities. On the 31st July we will participate in the International Congress on the Care of Creation at the Portuguese Catholic University. This activity has as its main theme “The commitment of young people for integral ecology. Lifestyles for a new humanity”.
In the same way, the Local Committee of WYD was kind enough to provide us with the Largo de Santo António, a small square that is in front of the Church of St. Anthony, built in the place where the saint was born, to develop various activities such as the creation of a mural where young people who wish, can paint a photographic exhibition that will show WYD’s commitment to environmental sustainability and, in addition, we will develop the project “Dialoguing with the saints in metaverse“. In the Church of St. Anthony we will celebrate the Holy Eucharist with the Laudato Si’encyclical in mind and there will be moments for ecological prayer. Young people will also be offered guided tours within the Church to learn more about the life of St. Anthony, who is also one of the patrons of WYD.
Amongst the important activities is the Serata Laudato Si‘ (IV edition), an international Franciscan concert on integral ecology in which fr. Florival Mariano, OFM, from Brazil; the musical group Filocalia from Argentina, the Franciscans from Spain and the Italian singer Giovanni Caccamo will participate. This concert will be held on Wednesday the 2nd August from 8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., at the Casa San Francisco de Asís, a labour of love where children and young people with cognitive impairment live. This house will host the young people of L’Arche, an international organization that works with people with intellectual disabilities. It is worth saying that the concert is open to everyone.
Finally, we will have a presence in the City of Joy developing some activities always in the key of integral ecology.
How important is it to be at the WYD and talk to young people about Integral Ecology?
Some years ago, one of our Ministers General affirmed that Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation are part of the Franciscan DNA. A beautiful metaphor that marked the way of understanding JPIC. So to this end, the Friars Minor will be present at WYD promoting that very DNA. Therefore, our proposal to the young people from all over the world who will gather in Lisbon is what Pope Francis calls in his Encyclical Laudato Si’, Integral Ecology, as I have already mentioned before.
One of the signs of more hopeful times of today is the sensitivity of the new generations to ecological issues. I would dare to say that the ethics of care mark the lives of many of them and this way of life goes through the care of the Common Home. It is understood that our proposal in the next WYD does not go against the current, on the contrary, there will be a lot of reception and reception by the participants.
We are seeking to make young people realize that the personal encounter with Christ, the firstborn of all creation (Col 1:15), necessarily leads to a commitment to the care of our Common Home. In a way, this was the spiritual journey of St. Francis of Assisi and his spiritual son, St. Anthony. In short, our Christian faith and care for Mother Earth is part of a virtuous circle that aims at the silent construction of a new humanity.
Will the Minister General and his Vicar also be in Lisbon?
Yes indeed, Br. Massimo Fusarelli, OFM, Minister General, will be in Lisbon on the 30th and 31st of July, together with the other Ministers General of the Franciscan Family to participate in the International Meeting of Franciscan Youth (YouFra).
Amongst Franciscan friars and young people of the Laudato Si’ Movement there is an average of one hundred volunteers from all over the world to develop the aforementioned programme. Br. Massimo will celebrate the Eucharist with them and then we will have a fraternal meeting.
Likewise, Br. Ignacio Ceja, OFM, Vicar General, will be accompanying our activities throughout the week. He will offer a message at the Serata Laudato Si’, celebrate the Eucharist for Italian- and Portuguese-speaking youth, amongst other activities.
The theme of this WYD is “Mary got up and left in haste” (Lk 1:39). How “quickly” do we have to act to create a new humanity?
This Gospel passage from Luke is very important to represent what Pope Francis calls the culture of encounter. Mary “rises” and goes “quickly” to the mountains of Judah to meet Elizabeth. While it is a physical movement it is also a movement of faith. The Holy Spirit has made His dwelling in her with the incarnation of the Son of God. The Mother of Jesus is a disciple-missionary.
As a child I learned a beautiful prayer that says “God grant us the serenity to accept all that we cannot change and courage to change what we can.” Attending to the cry of the poor and the cry of the earth has no delay, it is something that we must and can change, but urgently, that is, “quickly” because there is not much time left. It is unthinkable to dream of a new humanity with a shattered Common Home. Pope Francis in paragraph 13 of his Encyclical Laudato Si’ assures that “Young people demand a change from us. They wonder how it is possible to try to build a better future without thinking about the crisis of the environment and the sufferings of the excluded.” Therefore, WYD is a place to dream and commit ourselves to these other possible worlds.
We invite all the Franciscans and all the young people who will be present at WYD Lisbon 2023 to visit us in the Church of St. Anthony and the City of Joy, so that we can share, sing, pray and celebrate together our faith and our commitment to our Common Home. For those who will not be able to attend physically, we invite you to participate in the broadcasts that we will make throughout the week.
Communications Office OFM