Ireland urged to ‘dream big’ to host World Youth Day

Ireland urged to ‘dream big’ to host World Youth Day Pope Francis salutes the crowd at the end of Mass in Tejo Park in Lisbon during World Youth Day, Portugal, August 6. Photo: CNS/Vatican Media

Chai Brady and Jason Osborne

Ireland hosting a major international Catholic event like World Youth Day could be a key moment in renewing and reforming the Church here, bishops have told The Irish Catholic.

A dozen Irish bishops have just returned from the global youth event in Lisbon where more than 1.5 million young Catholics gathered with Pope Francis in the Portugese capital. It was the largest delegation of Irish prelates at the event in many years.

Bishop of Raphoe Alan McGuckian SJ said that it would be a daunting challenge for the Church in Ireland to host such a large event, but that “hypothetically it would be absolutely wonderful seeing all those young Catholics from all over the world going around and also being welcomed and supported”.

Speaking about World Youth Day in Lisbon he said: “I would say the Portuguese Church will be hugely enriched that a good few thousand young Portuguese committed themselves [as volunteers], some for a few weeks, others in their part-time for a year or two years – that will be a huge shot in the arm for the Portuguese Church”.

However, he admitted that: “I think that at this moment that would be a huge challenge for us in Ireland” while insisting that: “the impact would be fantastic there is no doubt about it”.

Bishop of Cork and Ross Fintan Gavin said that he believes that the Lisbon event has already had a great effect on young Irish Catholics.

“I think there was a huge boost for the Irish Church at World Youth Day…we brought 40 pilgrims from Cork and Ross, they had a wonderful experience – it wasn’t a holiday, it was a pilgrimage.

“It wasn’t easy, but they didn’t complain. They connected with young people, they deepened their own faith…That’s where we need to start,” he said.

Bishop Gavin said he felt that hosting World Youth Day could be an aspiration for the future, but “in the short term, I think given where we are, we have to try to build up young people of faith in Ireland, with all of the challenges we’ve had.”

Auxiliary Bishop of Armagh Michael Router insisted that hosting WYD “couldn’t but bring a rejuvenation of Faith”. However, he also cautioned that “it might be beyond our scope at present, it’s a huge operation”.

He also said that he thought Ireland would be a good destination for pilgrims. “I think Ireland would be a popular venue for people, I think people would like come to Ireland to celebrate World Youth Day I’ve no doubt about that, so we could attract a very large crowd.

“We would need to put an awful lot of thought into it before putting in a bid to host it,” he said.

“I think it would definitely be a major source of renewal. I think there is much that we can learn from World Youth Day [in Portugal] ourselves… I came back from that renewed myself by what I have seen and what I have experienced and I feel that we really need to put a strong focus on young people over the next four years, in the lead up to the next World Youth Day,” Bishop Router said.

Bishop Phonsie Cullinan of Waterford and Lismore said that it would be massive logistical operation, but Church leaders would have to focus on the benefits.

“We spoke about that [hosting a WYD], and we saw that Lisbon was stretched, I would say, but you know, we have to dream too, and we have to dream big.

“Would it be possible? Quite frankly, I think it would,” he said.

Bishop Cullinan said that the Church would have to work in partnership with civil authorities to host such a gathering.

“In order for there to be a World Youth Day in Ireland, there would have to be considerable official and Governmental help. For example, to see the security over there, the co-operation of the transport services, the political welcome and the genuine welcome.

“These things would all have to be taken into consideration if Ireland were to host a World Youth Day. Personally, I would love to see it,” Bishop Cullinan said.