.- With exactly one year to go until the 28th World Youth Day begins in Rio de Janeiro, Pope Benedict XVI is praying this August that young people will engage in evangelization.
“That young people, called to follow Christ, may be willing to proclaim and bear witness to the Gospel to the ends of the earth,” the official Vatican statement from July 31 says.
Pope Benedict’s mission prayer intention echoes almost exactly the theme for next year’s event in Brazil, “Go and make disciples of all nations.”
It also comes only days after he used his traditional Sunday Angelus address to send his best wishes to those organizing the six-day international festival, which will take place July 23-28, 2013.
“It is a valuable opportunity for many young people to experience the joy and beauty of belonging to the Church and living the faith,” the Pope said at the July 29 Angelus gathering.
Rio de Janeiro will be Pope Benedict’s fourth World Youth Day since being elected pontiff seven years ago. The international assembly will follow successful events in Cologne in 2005, Sydney in 2008 and Madrid in 2011. It will also be the first World Youth Day to be hosted by a South American country since the event convened in Buenos Aires in 1987.
At present, over 2 million pilgrims are expected to make the journey to Brazil next year.
“I look forward to this event and would like to encourage and thank the organizers, especially the Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro, working diligently to prepare the reception of young people from around the world take part in this important ecclesial meeting,” the Pope added at the Angelus remarks.
Encounters between the 85-year-old Pope and young people have been a constant feature of his 23 apostolic visits outside of Italy. His message has always been constant and challenging – true happiness is to be found in following Jesus Christ.
“God wants us to be happy always. He knows us and he loves us,” he told young people in the Mexican city of Guanajuato during his last foreign visit, which was to Mexico and Cuba in March 2012.
“If we allow the love of Christ to change our heart, then we can change the world. This is the secret of authentic happiness.”