world youth day

Youth Experience in WYD 2013 in Rio De Janeiro

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations. Matthew 28-19.

The Church needs young people» was the heartwarming message by the Holy Father Pope Francis before millions of young people celebrating together the World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The Church needs you, needs your enthusiasm, creativity and your joyfulness that characterize you», declared the Primate of the Roman Catholic Church addressing the young participants.

Let yourself go towards Him» were the words of Pope Benedict 16th in Madrid in 2011 when he invited the youths to join the World Youth Day in 2013 in Rio de Janeiro and to open themselves to His love and become the witnesses the world needs. This calling was echoed by Pope Francis short after his election.

The verse of the Gospel "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations" (Mt 28,19 ) was the thought that guided all the events of faith at the World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from 22 to 29 July.

The famous statue of Christ the Redeemer that overlooks the city of Rio de Janeiro is a symbol of this spiritual gathering. One can notice His wide and receiving hands open to those who approach Him, and His heart imbued with immense love that Jesus nurtures for each and every one of us.

The call of the Holy Father for an experience of meeting with Christ alongside numerous youths all rushing to Rio de Janeiro for the international meeting, was heard and answered by one of the smallest Episcopal Regions of the large Catholic family, the Archdiocesan District Maronites of Cyprus. A small group of 12 young people accompanied by two nuns , Sister Jeanette Finianos and Sister Antonia Piripitsi, wished to make its own journey to faraway Brazil , for Christ and with Christ .

The experiences were countless, the emotions intense and the images unimaginable. Being amongst four million young people tha flooded daily the famous 4 km Copacabana beach to pray the Way of the Cross with the Pope , to venerate the Holy Body of Christ and attend the Divine Liturgy was a unique experience.

Tens of thousands of flags were waved in the hazy Brazilian sky and chants in all kinds of languages resounded everywhere. Among all these was Cyprus. The flag on our shoulders was often heavy. We felt the burden of responsibility to represent a people, a community that most are unaware of its existence. We became privy to the testimony of faith experienced by the Maronites of Cyprus struggling to keep their villages, their churches , their faith.

Yet we did not feel small, we did not feel as a minority. As Pope Francis told us in Brazil: «Men are not islands. We are a community and cannot walk along the path of life on our own». Maronites of Cyprus are part of a community of the Church of Christ and will survive hand in hand with the Church.

Our daily schedule was filled with a myriad of social and spiritual activities through which we came closer to our faith and to others. The dialogue that emerged helped us discover ourselves, confronted us with our own limits of physical strain, after long hours of travelling and weather change, and of mental fatigue after long conversations over faith that brought us to agree that one does not need to pray all the time, but rather needs to come closer to others and together become the living witnesses of our faith, with altruism and beyond all selfishness.

The participants were struck by the hundreds of outdoors confessionals that were set up for the youths. The Holy Father himself sought to underline the importance of confession by saying that «even the Pope goes to confession», thus encouraging the young people to take part in this Mystery.

What remains of this wonderful experience is the imposing statue of Christ whose heart beats with love for the hole world without any discrimination and whose wide open hands embrace the world and call us to become the heart and hands of Jesus Christ and witnesses of His love, new apostles making disciples of all nations.

We wish to express gratitude to His Eminence Archbishop Joseph Soueif, to the sisters who accompanied us and to all those who provided us with the opportunity to live such a great and marking journey. We hope to relive this experience even more intensely and with even more youths in Krakow, Poland in 2016.

Philippos Karis

WYD 2013 Participant