Thousands of young Catholics from across Europe will be pouring into Paris over the course of the next week. No, it’s not World Youth Day. It’s part of a new European movement, referred to as the Urban Mission Program, and it will see these fervent Catholics spread the Gospel message in Paris cafes, parks and street corners.
The five-year program is a response to the call of Pope John Paul II for a New Evangelization.
It was conceived and developed by five European cardinals to reach out to Europeans who no longer practice their Catholic faith and to rekindle interest in the Catholic faith and the Church on a continent that has become disaffected with the Church in recent centuries.
The movement began last year in Vienna and will continue over the next three years in Lisbon, Brussels and Budapest.
Participants gathering around Notre Dame Cathedral in central Paris told Reuters of the inspiration they find in such large faith gatherings. In their greeting packs, participants were given a paperback New Testament to give to a stranger during the week.
Participants can also choose from among 158 different talks to attend about religious and social issues. Among the speakers is former International Monetary Fund managing director Michel Camdessus and Francis Mer, who will discuss “Christians and Money.”
About 2,000 Catholic families in Paris are housing participants until the weeklong event ends, Nov. 1.