The Youth Symposium organised by the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences, entitled “Get up! Christ is calling you. Christus Vivit in Europe” took place from 20 to 23 October in Krakow.
160 delegates from 30 European countries met at the St John Paul II Sanctuary in Kraków, six years after the last symposium that prepared for the 2018 Youth Synod. The meeting looked at the situations of young Europeans from East, South and Western Europe, their relationship with the Church and their commitment, which in some cases has resulted in a religious vocation and analysed several good practices.
The Symposium was originally scheduled to take place in 2020, on the centenary of the birth of St John Paul II. It was postponed by two years due to the pandemic, thus taking place closer to the World Youth Day in Lisbon 2023. The presence of St John Paul II, as well as the devotion to Divine Mercy that the holy Pope began to experience in Kraków, were an integral part of the symposium experience.
In his introduction, Archbishop Gintaras Grušas of Vilnius, President of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences, emphasised that the bishops care about “the present and future of young people. We want to work with them, listen to their experiences, learn about their living experiences and understand the problems they encounter in their daily lives”.
The CCEE president did not fail to mention the “delicate moment” being experienced in Europe, due to the war in Ukraine that broke out just as “COVID was loosening its grip”.
“We were convinced”, Archbishop Grušas said, “that there would be no more wars in Europe, that we would only read about them in the history books. Yet once again, the seduction of power and the greed of some has led to war”.
The archbishop recalled how, already at the end of 2021, Lithuania, Latvia and Poland had been subjected to “a kind of hybrid war” with migrants moving en masse over the borders of Belarus to the three states and being used as “human shields to destabilise that region and blackmail the European community”.
Then, in 2022, there was the invasion of Ukraine, followed by the energy crisis, which is bringing families to their knees.
The European bishops, said the CCEE president, will continue to join their voice to that of the Pope for an end to the conflict. Many bishops, including Archbishop Grušas himself, were in Ukraine to bring solidarity and to pray for peace. On the day of the Exaltation of the Cross, CCEE called for Eucharistic Adoration to implore peace for Ukraine.
The work of this symposium, Archbishop Grušas explained, draws inspiration from the Youth Synod, and the post-synodal exhortation Christus Vivit, and that the path traced by these two events “cannot be considered finished, but is rather a starting point for a new synodal path”.
Archbishop Marek Jędraszewski of Kraków, in his opening greeting, recalled that the very motto of the symposium, taken from a passage of the Gospel, leads to three conclusions: “that we must first of all cry out to Jesus with confidence, seeing only in Him our salvation”; that “we must have confidence that He will hear us and be willing to engage in a saving dialogue with us”; and that “we must have support for this hope in other members of the Church”.
Furthermore, added the Archbishop of Kraków, “we must have a daily experience of faith that heals us and enables us to faithfully follow Christ today. In really difficult times: the era of post-truth, the harsh recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and, above all, the cruel war started just across our eastern border by Russia attacking Ukraine”.
Finally, Archbishop Jędraszewski emphasised that “our spiritual confrontation with the challenges of modern times must be at the same time the most fruitful preparation for next year’s World Youth Day, which will be held in Lisbon, under the sign of Mary who got up and went in haste (Luke 1:39)”.