by Junno Arocho Esteves
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis’ decision to move the local celebrations of World Youth Day from Palm Sunday to the feast of Christ the King addresses the pastoral needs of local churches, said Father Joao Chagas, head of the youth section of the Dicastery for Laity, the Family and Life.
“We’re not considering the new date as better than the previous one, but rather as one that nowadays suits best the dynamic of the local church and, at the same time, does not change the intention with which the WYD has been established,” Father Chagas said in an email to Catholic News Service Nov. 24.
The pope announced at the end of Mass Nov. 22 that the change was made “after listening to various opinions and consulting” the dicastery.
“The center of the celebration remains the mystery of Jesus Christ, the redeemer of man, as St. John Paul II, the initiator and patron of WYD, always emphasized,” the pope said.
Father Chagas told CNS that the dicastery consulted national directors of youth ministry in bishops’ conferences around the world and discovered that many dioceses were already celebrating WYD on days that were “more suited to their pastoral and liturgical contexts than Palm Sunday.”
For example, a youth minister in Poland, he said, agreed with changing the date “because Palm Sunday is an engaging time for parochial communities” and a different date for the youth and young adult gathering would show “the vitality of the church, which continuously searches for the best ways to encounter young people.”
“This new date, which seems to best correspond to the varied dynamics of local churches nowadays, was chosen as a fruit of listening to the local realities and of searching for best ways to walk together as a family of the church,” Father Chagas said.
Other dioceses, especially in the Holy Land and many dioceses in English-speaking countries, already observed the local celebration of WYD on the feast of Christ the King, he added.
“Let us consider this change as a new boost for all the church to walk together, in synodality, with young people,” Father Chagas told CNS.