Year of Youth 2018

World Youth Day: Modern faith gives young Catholics wings

Last edited 19th July 2016

World Youth Day: Modern faith gives young Catholics wings

In the Middle Ages, Catholic pilgrims donned leather sandals and headed to the Holy Land, San­tiago de Compostela and other sacred sites in a rite of passage bringing them closer to their faith.

Centuries on, they’re continuing the tradition with a contemporary twist, clutching Havaianas, iPhones and inter­national air tickets as they head to Cracow, Poland, for World Youth Day, which kicks off next week.

More than 2.5 million young Catholics will attend the event — the largest in the Catholic Church’s international calendar — including a contingent of more than 3000 from Australia.

“It feels like no one’s left in town,” Ashleigh Green, 24, said as she prepared to head to Europe.

Ms Green, who studies social work in Ray Haven on the NSW central coast, will meet six members of her church for a week-long tour of Germany before joining more than 230 parishioners from the Broken Bay diocese.

Other Sydneysiders Laura McAlister of East Killara and Justin Faehrmann of North Strathfield also left at the weekend for the pilgrimage, which culminates in an all-night vigil and morning mass hosted by Pope Francis, attended by more than 2.5 million.

Local bishops credit the event as a key factor galvanising the faith of young Catholics at an age when many leave the church.

“For many people, it comes at a critical point,” said Canberra-based Archbishop Christopher Prowse, who left Canberra for the event with six parishioners.

“When you go into the seminaries, most of them put their hand up and say that World Youth Day helped them make the choice to choose the priesthood, (others) say the it was where they made major life decisions or they chose their partner.”

The event is held every three years in a different country, with Rio de Janeiro hosting 3 million people in 2013. Sydney attracted more than 400,000 to its World Youth Day celebration in 2008.

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