(Vatican Radio) Thousands of young Catholics from Southern Africa are gathered in the South African city of Durban for a Mini World Youth Day which aims to give them a sense of unity, to celebrate their Christianity and community while experiencing the chosen theme of “Young people, faith and vocations”.
The event opened on Thursday and is due to end on Sunday 10th January.
Organized by the South African Conference of Catholic Bishops, the gathering foresees a programme of community engagement, prayer, discussion groups and pilgrimages. It forms part of a global build-up to World Youth Day, which will be held in Panama in 2019.
First established in 1985, World Youth Day takes place every three years with Mini World Youth Day events hosted in cities around the world forming stepping stones towards the major event in any one particular host country.
Amongst the participants at Mini World Youth Day is Tim Harris, founder of the Catholic Leadership Academy, an institution that teaches Catholics good leadership skills and talents.
He spoke to Linda Bordoni about how the Durban Mini World Youth Day is engaging young Catholics and encouraging them to express their faith, their joy and also their concerns.
What’s going on and who is attending
Harris describes the set up in the Durban Exhibition Hall as an “exciting place with a big stage, fabulous lighting, interesting and dynamic graphics and four different areas where bishops have places where they can engage in conversations with young people.
He says the participants are split up into groups offering insight into finding vocations and talking about issues, “they are leaving a lot of time for questions and answers” and give you the impression that they are really listening to the young people.
Harris says most of those present come from South Africa but there are definitely others from other countries like neighbouring Zimbabwe flags, and of course, he points out, as the South African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) covers other countries in the region invitations have gone out to them as well.
The Mini World Youth Day comes to life as an initiative of the SACBC, and Harris explained the bishops already ran one 2 years ago in Johannesburg: “this is the next step and there are plans for a third one” he said the bishops are excited about it “and are putting money into it: it’s good to see!”
Preparation for 2019 World Youth Day
Harris agrees the event is in preparation for WYD in Panama in 2019: “it gives young people a taste of what they might expect at WYD”.
He points out that those events are very exciting and “perhaps many South Africans don’t really understand why they should think of participating as it certainly is an expense and takes time away from work, school or university” so the event in Durban may represent an extra push.
“It’s an encouragement to go to the big global WYD: “I’ve also heard whisperings – no idea if this is really the case – but there is potential for WYD to be held in South Africa and so these Mini World Youth Days are trial runs to get a sense of the scale and logistics and whether or not we have the infrastructure” he said.
Preparation for the 2018 Synod of Bishops on Young People
Harris also said the event takes place as millions of young Catholics around the world prepare to voice their concerns at the upcoming “Synod of Bishops on Young People” which will take place in the Vatican in 2018.
That event is certainly mentioned in the Catholic world in South Africa at the moment and there is a call for information to be compiled collated and sent in to Rome: “Those conversations are certainly happening”.