Is World Youth Day worth it?

My Facebook newsfeed in recent days has been filled with exciting stories and photos about World Youth Day (WYD)—which ended today with a Mass in Rio. Yet again, we have had some amazing quotes from Pope Francis on his visit to Brazil reminding us about the church’s social and ethical obligations towards the poor. However, does Francis’s vision of an engaged and humble church committed to the poor fit with the church’s major event for young adults?

As in previous years, there has been little to no critical evaluation from inside the church as to the effectiveness and impact of the World Youth Day. While this youth festival corresponds well with the media-driven culture of globalization, several questions must be asked.

  • Is it the most effective use of our limited resources?
  • What theologies and ecclesiologies are reflected in the World Youth Day?
  • Is the organization of the program done in a transparent, participatory and ethical manner?
  • What is the impact of the WYD on the local economy and the global environment (carbon footprint)?
  • More importantly perhaps, what is the real impact of the World Youth Day on the poor?

An excellent article by Philippe Vaillancourt in Quebec, puts it this way:

Since the arrival of Pope Francis, we saw the papacy question habits and adopt a new style…[However] WYD is strongly marked by obscene spending in the context of universal Catholicism, a paradoxical undeniable ecological footprint and a mixed impact. Recognizing this, a simple question arises: is the current formula for WYD still morally acceptable within the Church? Asking this question is ultimately to take an interest in the credibility that the Church wants to have in the eyes of young people. Continue reading


Kevin J. Ahern will begin work as a professor of religious studies at Manhattan College in 2013.

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News category: Analysis and Comment.

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