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Wednesday, 23 November 2022 17:31

Prior General's Letter for World Youth Day

In view of the World Youth Day 2023 in Lisbon, Portugal

Roma, 16 novembre 2022
Prot. 358/2022

Dear Carmelites and Friends of Carmel,

With less than a year to go to the World Youth Day, excitement is increasing, and we are beginning to feel that we have to get moving to get organised. There is a great expectation that there will be an enormous attendance at this next World Youth Day.

When we hear the name Portugal we often think of Fatima and of the many beautiful events Carmelites have had there over the years. This time Portugal means Lisbon, a beautiful city in which there have been Carmelite communities since 1387. The Carmelites in Portugal are getting ready to welcome the participants at the Carmelite Day that will take place on the 2nd August 2023, the day before the main event.

This time the theme of the WYD centres on Mary, the Mother of Jesus, in her response to God. As she became aware of God's "voice" within her, Mary responded, with her whole heart and soul and mind. That is the case when she left her home and went into the country to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Some say she went to help her elderly cousin deal with her surprising pregnancy. Others say that Mary felt the need to share her good news with someone who would understand, and to have the comfort of staying with her elderly relative at this sensitive time in her life.

It is somewhat in the same spirit that young people from around the world will hear the invitation to Portugal. They will sense that this is an invitation that belongs to their faith in Jesus Christ, and to their desire to share with other young people at this time in their own personal history. The World Youth Day has proven to be the kind of event where young people find inspiration, companionship and nourishment for their lives. It leaves lasting memories and changes their view of life. Portugal will be no different. For that reason, it gives me great pleasure to write this letter, as a way of making contact with young people around the world, and with Carmelite friars and sisters who work with young people, with a word of encouragement to you to do everything possible to be able to attend the events in Portugal, and where that is not possible, to join in all that is happening from near or afar through social media and the events that you will organise at home to coincide with all that is happening in Lisbon.

For many travel to Portugal will be easy, because they will come from countries that are not far from Portugal, while for others the distance poses a real difficult. We have had a culture of sharing around the World Youth Day for many years which means finding ways to share whatever resources we have or will have because of the fundraising that will be done. I would love if everyone who can put aside a little extra for the event would do as much as they can so that what they do not need might be given to others who will really struggle to be able to travel and be present in Lisbon.

I pray that you will all grow in your interest and enthusiasm for World Youth Day 2023 and that your preparations will be smooth and successful. May the Blessed Virgin Mary who arose and went to Elisabeth inspire as many people as possible to take part in this event designed to fill young people with the joy of friendship and a new discovery of the word of God in their lives.

In peace and friendship,

Fr. Miceal O'Neill, 0.Carm.
Prior General

Theme of World Youth Day 2023

«Mary arose and went with haste» (Lk 1:39) is the bible quote chosen by Pope Francis as the motto of the World Youth Day that will be held for the first time in the capital city of Lisbon, Portugal. The biblical phrase (a quote from the Gospel of St. Luke) opens the account of the Visitation (Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth), a biblical episode following the Annunciation (the angel’s announcement to Mary that she would be the mother of the Son of God, and the theme of the last WYD, in Panama).  

During their conversation of the Annunciation, the angel also tells Mary that her older cousin, thought to be sterile, is pregnant. After affirming to the angel ” Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word ” (Lk 1:38), it is then that Mary sets out for Ain Karim, a village near Jerusalem where Elizabeth lived and was awaiting the birth of John, who would become Saint John the Baptist. 

Mary of Nazareth is the great figure of the Christian journey. She teaches us to say yes to God. She was the protagonist of the last edition of WYD and will be so once again in Lisbon. 

In the biblical episode of the Visitation, the action of standing up presents Mary as both a woman of charity and a missionary woman. Leaving in haste represents the attitude depicted in Pope Francis’ indications for WYD Lisbon 2023: «may young people’s evangelization be active and missionary, for this is how they will recognize and witness the presence of the living Christ». 

Addressing young people in particular, and challenging them to be courageous missionaries, the following was written by the Pope in the Apostolic Exhortation Christus Vivit:  « Where does Jesus send us? There are no borders, no limits: he sends us everywhere. The Gospel is for everyone, not just for some » (CV 177).   

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