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Sacredness of creation to be priority at World Youth Day

VATICAN CITY (CNS): When hundreds of thousands of young people gather for World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from July 23 to 28, reflections on the sacredness  of creation and importance of safeguarding the environment will be part of the programme. 

Like previous Youth Days, the celebration in Rio de Janeiro will include morning catechetical sessions and afternoon cultural events. 

“From the beginning of planning—under Pope Benedict XVI—it was thought that a major theme in Brazil, known as the lungs of the world, would have to be the environment,” Marcello Bedeschi, president of the John Paul II Foundation for Youth, a Rome-based organisation that assists with Youth Day planning, explained. 

“We did not know that there would be a new pope and that in his first three major addresses, he would speak about safeguarding creation, not in political or ideological terms, but as a Christian obligation,” Bedeschi said. 

Corrado Clini, Italy’s environment minister, has been working with the Pontifical Council for the Laity, the Brazilian government and the Youth Day organising team in Rio de Janeiro to encourage young people to reflect on the importance of biodiversity and protecting the environment.

He is also working to encourage cooperation between several Italian and Brazilian companies to reduce the energy and water used at the event and to recycle as much of the refuse as possible. 

At an April 4 news conference at the Vatican, Clini said the fact that the youth gathering will take place a year after the international community gathered for Rio+20—the United Nations (UN) sponsored conference on sustainable development—is a great opportunity to rally the passion Catholic young people have for protecting the world God created. 

As the UN attempts to draft and build consensus around a set of Sustainable Development Goals as a follow-up to the conference, “grass-roots support and participation is essential,” Clini said. 

“World Youth Day is the best context for expanding this vision of global solidarity,” which includes a commitment by industrialised nations to moderate their consumption habits, promote development in poor countries and share with them the knowledge and technology they need to build their economies without threatening the environment. 

The minister said that the Catholic Church can have a big impact on promoting these goals, because it has an ability to bring moral teaching—including safeguarding creation—into the hearts, minds and daily lives of its faithful. 

A special reflection on the environment is scheduled for the second day of the event. Clini, his Brazilian counterpart, scientists, theologians, UN officials and members of Catholic groups devoted to safeguarding creation will lead the activity. 

At the end of the gathering, the young people are expected to issue a manifesto for safeguarding creation, which will be drafted with assistance from Conventual Franciscan Friars from Assisi, Italy. 

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