A Canadian pilgrim watches Pope John Paul II on a television monitor during World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto. Many Canadians will be watching Pope Francis on TV at home during WYD in Brazil this July. Canadian WYD attendance has drastically decreased. CNS photo by Karen Mikols

Canadians stay home during WYD

  • July 12, 2013

The number of Canadian pilgrims attending World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, later this month is significantly lower in comparison to past WYD events.

The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has announced that 1,153 pilgrims will be attending the Catholic youth festival from July 23 to 28, excluding the eight bishops who will be part of the Canadian delegation.

That is about 5,000 fewer than the number of Canadian pilgrims that attended WYD in Madrid, Spain (2011). About 2,000 attended WYD in Sydney, Australia (2008).

The highest number of Canadians to attend a WYD outside of Canada was 7,000 in Cologne, Germany, in 2005. That was the WYD after Toronto in 2002.

Fr. Tom Rosica, CEO of Salt + Light Television, was the national director of Canada’s World Youth Day and has been appointed the CCCB’s World Youth Day co-ordinator for the Canadian delegation to Brazil.

“The Rio World Youth Day presents many challenges to young people from throughout the world. Not the least of these is the cost factor. Prices were very high,” he said.

“Next are the serious security issues on the ground in Brazil. Third, I strongly feel that there should be a longer waiting period between World Youth Days. They should not be every two years.” Canadians still attending WYD in Rio include Salesian youth. Sr. Corazon Beboso, vocation director at the Don Bosco Centre in Markham, Ont., is one of two Salesian sisters co-ordinating a group of 33 from the archdiocese of Toronto and the Alexandria- Cornwall diocese heading to Brazil for what Beboso calls a “megagathering.” As a Salesian, it is part of her vocation to bring youth closer to Christ.

“My group is so enthusiastic because it’s South America and it’s Pope Francis,” she said, though the group Salesian Youth Movement Toronto started to prepare for WYD last September when Benedict XVI was still pope.

Beboso said the average age of group members is 25, with the youngest 18 and the oldest 33.

“Most of them are working, so we didn’t have the problem of raising funds because they were financially stable,” she said.

As for others who choose to stay in Canada this World Youth Day, there are World Youth Day at home events in a number of dioceses, including Calgary and Kingston, Ont.

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