ROME, Italy — Bishops from the Middle East have proposed a regional youth gathering similar to World Youth Day for young Catholics from Syria to Somalia.
The proposed “World Day of Youth of the Arab Regions” would take place in Jordan as the first host country with the goal of encouraging “mass participation” from the region, according to the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
Bishops representing Catholics in Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Israel, Cyprus, Somalia, and countries of the Arabian Peninsula met in Rome Feb. 17-20 and discussed the proposed Arab World Youth Day gathering at the meeting of the Conference of Latin Bishops of the Arab Regions (CELRA).
During their plenary meeting in Rome, the 14 bishops met with Pope Francis following a daily Mass in Santa Marta, and attended meetings with several members of the curia.
Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, spoke to the bishops about the “revolutionary character” of the “Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together” signed by Pope Francis and Muhammad Ahmad al-Tayyib, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, in Abu Dhabi last year.
Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri gave a talk on “Synodality in the praxis of the Church,” encouraging the bishops to work collaboratively, and Cardinal Michael Czerny, undersecretary of the Migrants and Refugees Section of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, led a discussion on the post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation “Querida Amazonia.”
The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem did not release more details on the proposed World Day of Youth of the Arab Regions, but said that the Conference of Latin Bishops of the Arab Regions will meet again in Lebanon in February 2021.
World Youth Day is a massive gathering of Catholic youth, which takes place every two or three years, with the goal of giving young people the chance to make a pilgrimage and encounter the worldwide Catholic community. Pope St. John Paul II first established World Youth Day in 1985.
Regional youth day celebrations have taken place since the late 1990s. The Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences organizes Asian Youth Day every three to five years. However, the 2021 Asian Youth Day was canceled earlier this year after bishops in India said they would be unable to host the Catholic youth gathering.
The Jesuit province of the Middle East has also organized smaller-scale “Regional Youth Days” since 2006. The last Regional Youth Days brought together 350 young Catholics in Jamhour, Lebanon in August 2019.
The next World Youth Day is scheduled to take place in Lisbon, Portugal in 2022 with the theme: “Mary arose and went with haste.”