On a recent trip to Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day 2013 preparations, a top Vatican official said the conversion of young people is essential for evangelizing formerly Christian societies.
Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, head of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, told EWTN News that he hopes the Rio World Youth Day will be “one more important step” in the Church's mission to bring young people closer to Christ.
He noted that over the last 25 years, World Youth Day has “proved to be an instrument of evangelization of extraordinary power. I'm sure that Rio will give a strong confirmation of this fact.”
Cardinal Rylko made his remarks at a March 2 press conference held in Rio de Janerio to discuss preparations for the global youth event. The cardinal was in Brazil Feb. 27--March 2 to meet with the local organizing committee and Archbishop Orani João Tempesta.
He told a packed room of journalists that “the preparations are very advanced” and that he has been touched by “the enthusiasm and the joy of those engaged in this path towards WYD 2013.”
He also praised the “sense of responsibility and professionalism” with which the preparations are being done, noting that “a good part of these works were entrusted in great measure to the young people themselves.”
Cardinal Rylko reminded the press that World Youth Day is returning to Latin America after 25 years, and that Buenos Aires was the first city to host the event outside of Rome in 1987.
The Polish cardinal said he was particularly impressed during his visit by fact that both civil authorities and Church representatives are working together with the belief that “the investment in the youth is the best possible investment for Brazil’s future, as well as the Church’s and world’s future.”
He also allayed concerns some have over whether or not the country is safe for young people to visit.
During a visit to the Rio de Janeiro Operations Center – an office designed with the latest technology to monitor traffic and security cameras and provide resources to security teams – the cardinal said he was impressed with the measures taken to guarantee the safety of visitors and pilgrims during World Youth Day.
“This makes us expect that in July 2013 the organization of the city of Rio will work perfectly,” Cardinal Rylko said.
“We are going back to Rome with a great certainty: World Youth Day in Rio will be an incredibly important event for the young people from the whole world.”
After answering a few questions from the press, the Vatican representative told EWTN News that he sees World Youth Day is an extension of the Great Continental Mission taking place in Latin America.
The mission – a set of pastoral initiatives proposed by Pope Benedict after the General Conference of Latin American Bishops in Aparecida, Brazil, in 2007 – is the “context in which World Youth Day Rio is inscribed,” he said.
He briefly touched on the state of young people today in South and North America, adding that it was difficult “in a brief moment to make an accurate analysis of the situation” during his short trip.
“But, from what we saw and heard, one thing is certain: the young people from Latin America have so many resources for the good that the Church in the Latin American continent must learn how to seize them and bring it to those to their full potential,” he emphasized.
On the effect that the global event will have on North American and European young people in particular, he said that every World Youth Day is “a laboratory of faith of global proportions during which this important dialogue – the sharing or exchange of different ways of living the faith today – takes place.”
“Therefore, I think that the young people from North America (and Europe) who come to Rio will find much to learn.”
During the press conference, Archbishop Tempesta noted that members of the Pontifical Council were able to meet with not only with authorities from the archdiocese and the Church in Brazil, but also with the governor, the mayor and other civil authorities from the State of Rio de Janeiro and the Brazilian Federal Government.
He affirmed that the Vatican personnel return to Rome with a positive evaluation of the city structure as it prepares to host millions of pilgrims next year.