VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis isn’t embarking on many official visits this year, but he is scheduled to make two significant ones: the first to Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day in July and the second to Sardinia.
Addressing Italian pilgrims during his weekly general audience May 15, the Holy Father said he wanted to visit the shrine of Our Lady of Bonaria on the Italian island of Sardinia. The visit, to the island’s capital, Cagliari, will take place “almost surely in the month of September,” he said. He would like to visit because a “brotherhood” exists between the cities of Buenos Aires and the Sardinian capital.
He explained that, at the moment of the founding of the city of Buenos Aires, its founder, Pedro de Mendoza, wanted to name it “City of the Most Holy Trinity,” but the sailors who had brought him there were Sardinian, and they wanted it to be called “City of the Madonna of Bonaria.”
“There was an argument, and, in the end, they arrived at a compromise,” the former archbishop of Buenos Aires told pilgrims. “Thus, the city’s name turned out rather long: ‘City of the Most Holy Trinity and Port of Our Lady of Bonaria.’” He added that, since it was “so long,” only the last word remained: Bonaria, Buenos Aires, “in memory of your image of the Madonna of Bonaria.”
Also in Italy this year, the Pope is expected to make a visit to Assisi, where he intends to pray at the tomb of the saint after whom he took his papal name. The trip is still not confirmed, but some sources believe it will take place around Oct. 4 — St. Francis’ feast day — and could include his first meeting with members of his advisory council on reforming the Curia and Church governance.
But it’s still not clear where the Pope will take his summer vacation, and he may not even follow Benedict XVI’s example and sojourn to the Albano Hills, where Castel Gandolfo, the Pope’s summer residence, is located.
Popes in recent times have taken summer vacations in July: Blessed John Paul II used to spend three weeks in the Italian Alps, as did Benedict XVI until 2009, after which he spent it at Castel Gandolfo.
But some believe Francis, wanting to set a thrifty example to the world in these tough economic times, and being someone who prefers to stay at home if he can, will simply stay in the Vatican, at the Casa Santa Marta guesthouse where he currently resides.
World Youth Day
The Pope’s most important visit this year will be his apostolic voyage to Brazil from July 22-29.
The program, released last week, includes a visit to a favela (shanty town), an encounter with young prisoners and a visit to Brazil’s national shrine. He will also be leading a World Youth Day Via Crucis on Copacabana beach and celebrating a large open-air Mass for pilgrims the following day.
Father Eric Jacquinet, director of the youth section of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, told the Register May 15 that organizers are expecting many young pilgrims from Latin America to attend, and “more and more are registering from Argentina.”
The Vatican official was reluctant to give estimates of final numbers, but he said that 80,000 people have registered already from outside Latin America. He pointed out that a large area is being reserved for the prayer vigil on July 27, to be held on the Campus Fidei of Guaratiba, and that Copacabana beach, where three major events will be staged, is well prepared to handle large numbers of people.
“Copacabana is used to having 1 to 2 million people for New Year’s Eve, but the question is how many will be there on that evening,” Father Jacquinet said, adding that another logistical concern is moving around the city, which has heavy traffic. But he is confident the local authorities and organizers will cope.
Having had 30 years of experience of World Youth Days, the laity council’s mission is to help local committees with both liturgical and logistical aspects of the event.
“We have 100 national delegates working with bishops in bishops’ conferences around the world, and with large national movements, such as the Sant’Egidio community,” he said. “We are working with them and preparing them.”
For young people to prepare for the event, the French priest recommended reading Benedict XVI’s message for the event, issued in October last year. The pope emeritus invited young people to prepare for the event by meditating on WYD 2013’s theme, “Go and make disciples of all nations!”
“This mandate should resound powerfully in your hearts,” Benedict XVI said, especially during this Year of Faith. “So many young people no longer see any meaning in their lives. Go forth! Christ needs you, too. Let yourselves be caught up and drawn along by his love. Be at the service of this immense love, so it can reach out to everyone, especially to those ‘far away.’”
Father Jacquinet advised young people not to participate in the event alone. “We encourage them to go in groups and with other friends,” he said. “Very often, Pope Benedict said it’s an occasion to make friendships.”
Often, young people have a great need for communication, on social networks for example, “but very often they are alone,” the official said.
He stressed there is therefore a need to build new friends and friendships “built on a spiritual experience,” and WYD is “a great opportunity for them” to do that. He said they should try to meet before the event and go in a group together.
The council is also issuing a “solidarity form” in which young people from rich countries are invited to give 10 euros each to raise funds to distribute to groups from poor countries who are asking for financial help to attend.
Edward Pentin is the Register’s Rome correspondent.