Report says improvements need to be made for the treatment of the press
By Vanessa Santilli
The Catholic Register
Lack of Holy Communion, the availability of water and a failed media structure were only some of the problems faced by Canadians at World Youth Day in Madrid, an evaluation from nearly 6,000 young Canadians, 24 bishops and more than 100 priests, deacons and religious found.
“So it was fraught with logistical difficulties, some of which are linked to the fact of any large event, but some clearly to a lack of preparation and foresight,” said Father Thomas Rosica, who at the request of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops spearheaded the formal evaluation of the Spanish event in 2011.
The Canadian bishops appointed Rosica WYD co-ordinator for the Canadian delegation to Madrid, a role he will take on for the next WYD in 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The chief executive officer of Salt and Light Media Foundation, Father Rosica was national director of the 2002 WYD event in Toronto.
Father Rosica made his report based on these findings available the week of April 30 to the CCCB and all Canadian youth ministers. From March 29 to April 1, he attended the Vatican-sponsored International Conference for the Evaluation of World Youth Days in Rome where he spoke to about 300 delegates about the key points that surfaced from Canadians.
“Close to 3,000 Canadians did not have access to the final sites on Saturday and Sunday,” said Father Rosica. “There was very poor distribution of the screens and visibility. It was too crowded. The event was too large. There was a sense of being overwhelmed and a very poor use of English.”
The Canadian evaluations also found the Stations of the Cross was neither accessible nor participatory.
In Rome, he highlighted a couple areas of concern which need to be improved for Rio, including problems with communications.
“The journalists were treated horribly,” he said.
“When media passes are not recognized, promised locations are not granted to media personnel, we should not be surprised that stories are not favourable about our event or about the Church.”
Another key concern that needs to be addressed in the future included the lack of Communion in Madrid at both the opening and closing Mass.
“We cannot forget that logistical problems like this one also have pastoral and liturgical ramifications and consequences that last long after the event is over.”
Whatever the real, legitimate circumstances were that caused these problems, something must be done to avoid them in the future, he said.
But with the bad also came the good. There was a lot of positive feedback about the meal voucher tickets, he said.
“One of the great successes was the Love and Life Centre,” said Father Rosica, which was a home for English-speaking pilgrims. Salt and Light was one of the centre’s sponsors.
“The Canadian gathering was a huge success in everybody’s evaluation, it was very positive. It was the first time we held a Canadian national gathering and it was the first time we brought together almost 6,000 people from Canada.”
Along with 18 being the minimum age for participation in Rio, Father Rosica’s report and recommendations to the CCCB and youth ministers will also mention “very serious security issues” along with transportation problems in Rio.
“Though Rio is going to be hosting the Olympics and the World Cup, World Youth Day is not the same because of the vulnerability of the participants.”
He also said it’s notable that Canadian and American participants will have to pay more than $100 for a Brazilian visa, since there’s no reciprocal travel agreements between the countries.
And it’s important to keep in mind that travel agencies do not dictate the agenda — that’s the Church’s role, he said.
“Great prudence and caution is required in taking the advice of any travel agency in Canada over and above the Church and the bishop’s conference.”
At the Vatican meeting last month, Father Rosica suggested to the Pontifical Council for the Laity that some kind of permanent advisory group be formed in order to ensure good communication and continuity for World Youth Days, he said.
“All of that being said, I’m going to Rio. They’re always wonderful events. But I think prudence is required this time. I’m not by any means discouraging people, but we must exercise prudence.”