I keep hearing whispers about the possibility of World Youth Day 2015 taking place in Krakow. But what has happened to all the post-Madrid noise about WYD coming to London? I think we need to stir it up a bit more. Or is it dead in the water already?
I’m delighted that 3202 people think they are ‘going’ to Cracow in 2015, according to the Facebook events page here: Światowe Dni Młodzieży w Krakowie – World Youth Day in Cracow 2015. Surely we can do better?
So, after months of passivity on Facebook, I’m setting up my first ‘page’ and my first ‘event’ – I’m not sure which is the best way to approach this, but let’s see how each develops.
You can see the Facebook ‘World Youth Day London 2016’ Event here. Visit here and sign up to attend – and invite your friends on Facebook!
As you can see, I went for 2016 instead, which gives us another year – a three year gap after Rio.
Here is the pitch:
We believe that the next World Youth Day, after Rio 2013, should take place in Britain in 2016, with the main events and closing Mass in London. And we’ll be there! There will never be a better time: post-Papal Visit, post-Olympics, the faith and energy of young Catholics here, the sense of renewal and hope within the Catholic Church in this country, the pull of the English language, and the attraction of Britain as a destination for visitors. WYD has already been to Poland, France, Italy, German and Spain – it’s time to come to Britain!
We could put on the best WYD there has ever been. It would revitalise the Church and be an incredible witness to the people of this country. It would be a truly national event, bringing together every Catholic diocese, parish, group and movement. It wouldn’t distract from other important pastoral priorities – instead it would provide a focus and stimulus for them. The period of planning and preparation would galvanise the Church at national and local levels. The ‘Days in the Dioceses’, in the week before WYD itself, would be a celebration of faith throughout the regions, with hundreds of thousands of international young pilgrims welcomed into parishes and families across Britain. And there could be an important ecumenical dimension too, with Catholics and other Christian communities cooperating in hospitality, witness and celebration.
London would be the focus for the main WYD events and closing Mass. Why? Not because of some unthinking ‘London-centric’ prejudice in favour of the capital, but simply because of the practical advantages. London has the venues, the infrastructure, the transport, the public spaces – the sheer size; and it will have the experience of dealing with the Olympics. In the three dioceses that converge there (Westminster, Southwark and Brentwood), it has the greatest number of Catholic parishes and movements, the richest concentration of Catholic life, and an incomparable diversity of people and communities. And it has a unique pull in the international imagination – witness the time of the Royal Wedding. It would be ‘London uniting the country and opening out to the world’, rather than ‘London excluding the regions’.
Yes, there would be significant costs. But unlike the recent Papal visit, WYD would pay for itself. If just half a million pilgrims register (a conservative estimate), and the fee is just £50, that’s £25m to start with, even before the serious fundraising has begun. And despite the misgivings of some, no-one seriously doubts that this kind of event brings massive economic benefits to the host country. The Papal visit, for example, brought an £8.5m boost to Glasgow alone; and a £12.5m boost to Birmingham. According to an independent report from PricewaterhouseCoopers, WYD Madrid brought 354m Euros to Spain [see links below]. This is one reason why the British Government, and Boris Johnson (as Mayor of London), will surely be interested in it. But there would be deeper reasons are well: the opportunity of hosting what is perhaps the largest youth event in the world, of opening our doors to people from every corner of the earth, and of putting young people at the centre of the national agenda.
At the moment, this is an off-the-cuff, un-thought-out, testing-the-water kind of proposition. It began in the parks and cafes of Madrid at WYD 2011, when thousands of young people from the UK began to think ‘We could do this!’ And this Facebook event itself started as a response to the enthusiasm shown on the Krakow WYD Facebook event page, and the feeling that we in Britain should be just as enthusiastic as the Poles. If we overtake the Krakow WYD event numbers (currently at 3,242 on 15 Jan), then it’s probably time to start thinking and praying about this more seriously.
So if you want to see it move forward, INVITE YOUR FRIENDS – TODAY!! And we’ll see where we are in a couple of weeks. The question is: Do we care as much as the Poles?
What do you think? Post your own comments, suggestions, criticisms, links, etc. in the box below.
You can see the Krakow event page here:
Report about the effects of Papal visit on Glasgow’s economy here:
Report about the effects of Papal visit on Birmingham’s economy here.
Report about the economic benefits of WYD Madrid to Spain here:
Here is an argument against hosting WYD in the UK in the near future, from CatholicYouthwork.Com, who argues against it on both pragmatic and theological/pastoral grounds. I can understand many of these objections – but the gut still says Yes.
Here is a ’26 Years of World Youth Days’ video:
Here is my all-time favourite WYD song, Guy Sebastian’s Receive the Power, from Sydney 2008: