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WYD: High turnout of Spanish youth signals faith alive in increasingly secular country

Spanish pilgrims at World Youth Day 2023 in Lisbon, Portugal, July 31, 2023. / Credit: Duarte Mourão Nunes/Flickr JMJ Lisboa 2023

ACI Prensa Staff, Aug 1, 2023 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

Of all the young people from countries participating in World Youth Day 2023 in Lisbon, Portugal, those from Spain are the most numerous. At least 75,000 of them will participate in the event that began Aug. 1 — a high number of young people from an increasingly secularized country.

During the days prior to the start of this long-awaited event, the presence of Spanish youth was noticed throughout the streets of the Portuguese capital and its surroundings, a witness that the faith is still alive in Spain despite the decline in the practice of religion.

At a July 31 press conference in Lisbon, Cardinal Juan José Omella, archbishop of Barcelona and president of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference, told ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner, that sometimes “the falling tree makes more noise than the green shoots rising up.”

“And this is a sign that there are a lot of green shoots that are growing and that it’s the future. That’s why we live with hope, and a missionary and apostle never shrinks in the face of difficulty but rather grows with the small hope of a green shoot and not of 20 falling trees,” he stressed.

For Omella, “the secularized world is an exciting world for an apostle and a missionary.”

Also participating in the press conference were Auxiliary Bishop Arturo Ros of Valencia, Spain, who is the director of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference’s Subcommittee for Youth, and Father Raúl Tinajero, a priest of the Diocese of Toledo in Spain, who both reflected on the value that this World Youth Day has for young Catholics.

Speaking to ACI Prensa, Ros remarked that the high turnout is a sign of hope. “We affirm with this that we are alive, we must continue sowing so that there is a harvest, so that there is fruit; we are alive, and not in order to fight but to sow and walk.”

“It’s true that there are some realities that we contemplate with great concern, but for example this servant has joyfully had to administer confirmation on an ongoing basis in my diocese. The groups have not decreased; you see they’re happy, they get excited, they live it with intensity,” he noted.

Ros assured that “this is a sign that we are alive and that there is hope,” and he hopes to achieve a better future, “where reconciliation, forgiveness, fraternity, and the purity or beauty of the Gospel reign, about which Pope Francis continually speaks to us.”

“These data are life, and they are hope, a firm and sure hope that they give us with their presence and their commitments for the future,” he highlighted.

Tinajero pointed out that the COVID-19 pandemic “affected us in every respect; we were afraid to reactivate youth ministry, which is always alive — there’s not a time when there isn’t an initiative.”

The priest of the Diocese of Toledo assured that “we are on a path of hope” where young people “are wanting to respond to their deep desire for happiness, and we are here to try to show them that God can answer that desire.”

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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