Reflections on life, meaning and purpose

Future Portuguese cardinal on WYD: ‘We don’t want to convert the young people to Christ’

Bishop Américo Aguiar. / Credit: Patriarchate of Lisbon

ACI Prensa Staff, Jul 10, 2023 / 16:00 pm (CNA).

“We don’t want to convert the young people to Christ or to the Catholic Church or anything like that at all,” said Bishop Américo Aguiar, the head of World Youth Day (WYD) Lisbon 2023 who will be created a cardinal by Pope Francis in September.

World Youth Day will be held in Lisbon, Portugal, Aug. 1–6.

Aguiar, an auxiliary bishop of Lisbon, made the statement July 6 in an interview with RTP Notícias, three days before Pope Francis announced the creation of 21 new cardinals, including the prelate.

In the interview, the bishop said that in his opinion the intention of World Youth Day is to have young people journey together, respecting their diversity.

For the cardinal-designate, the goal is to enable each young person to say: “‘I think differently, I feel differently, I organize my life in a different way, but we are brothers and we go together to build the future.’ This is the main message of this encounter with the living Christ that the pope wants to provide to young people.”

“We don’t want to convert the young people to Christ or to the Catholic Church or anything like that at all,” Aguiar continued. “We want it to be normal for a young Catholic Christian to say and bear witness to who he is or for a young Muslim, Jew, or of another religion to also have no problem saying who he is and bearing witness to it, and for a young person who has no religion to feel welcome and to perhaps not feel strange for thinking in a different way.”

The prelate stressed that it’s important “that we all understand that differences are a richness and the world will be objectively better if we are capable of placing in the hearts of all young people this certainty of Fratelli Tutti, brothers all, that the pope has made a enormous effort so that this enters the hearts of all.”

Pope Francis’ encyclical Fratelli Tutti was published Oct. 4, 2020. It is the third of his pontificate and is dedicated to “fraternity and social friendship.”

World Youth Day was instituted by Pope John Paul II in 1985. It has always been an opportunity for young people from all over the world to personally encounter Christ and choose to give themselves completely to his service in the priesthood or in consecrated life.

On Aug. 19, 2000, at WYD in Rome in the year of the Great Jubilee, Pope John Paul II called young people the “morning watchmen” and reminded them that by “saying ‘yes’ to Christ, you say ‘yes’ to all your noblest ideals. I pray that he will reign in your hearts and in all of humanity in the new century and the new millennium. Have no fear of entrusting yourselves to him! He will guide you, he will grant you the strength to follow him every day and in every situation.”

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.