Belated, Pastor Rodrigues Pereira enters the brand new premises of the Kingdom Business Center prayer house in Queluz, on the outskirts of Lisbon. White sneakers, black t-shirt and jeans, the evangelical pastor arrives from the Luz stadium, the home of the Benfica club, the largest in Portugal.
The man is smiling. He has just learned that the stadium in which he will organize, on Friday August 4, one of the major gatherings of World Youth Days (WYD) is full. Nearly 55,000 young people of all Christian denominations are expected for this event called “The Change”, an evening of praise and testimony unprecedented in its magnitude for an ecumenical event during WYD.
“A moment of evangelization for the decade to come”
“It’s historic”, explains Rodrigues Pereira, who still seems to have trouble realizing that his project, launched only six months ago, is seeing the light of day in the Portuguese capital. “God gave me this idea,” he explains, sitting in his office. We quickly launched fundraisers and booked the stadium. It is the work of only twenty volunteers. »
Then to integrate it into the official WYD program, he went to Rome to meet Cardinal Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the Pontifical Household. “He said to me: ‘Reach out to the new generation’”, says the pastor. To support it, the Vatican appointed the International Service of Catholic Charismatic Renewal to help prepare for the event, which was added, removed and finally included in the official WYD program before the weekend marked by the vigil. with the pope and the final mass.
“This event goes beyond ecumenism, continues Rodrigues Pereira. We want to make it a moment of evangelization for the decade to come. We don’t mean Christian denominations, but people who want to show the love of Christ to others. It provides for the signing of a “Lisbon declaration”, morally committing various ministers of worship until 2033 – “the 2,000 year anniversary of the Resurrection of Jesus” – for evangelization.
Ecumenical initiatives on the WYD program
To do this, he relied on his network in the evangelical world and also sought the help of the Chemin-Neuf community, which has had an ecumenical vocation since its foundation. “It’s a small revolution for the WYD”, breathes Marie Bourbonnais, sister of the community in charge of the organization of the Lisbon week for the Chemin-Neuf, who does not hide her surprise at the success of this “bet a little mad “.
Beyond this evening, several ecumenical initiatives have been added to the program of WYD, and as a symbol, the footballer Olivier Giroud, baptized Catholic and now Evangelical, delivered a vibrant video testimony of faith to French pilgrims.
“The most ecumenical World Youth Days in history”
Located a few steps from the basilica of Estrela where the Chemin-Neuf has established its quarters for the duration of the event, the Anglican church of Saint-Georges also wished to participate. “We helped the couple of pastors to create a spiritual journey to bring Christian unity to life where 300 young people are expected”, describes Marie Bourbonnais.
Several conferences and training courses on the challenges of ecumenism are offered throughout the week, with in particular Mgr Ian Ernest, special envoy of the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Vatican.
“These are perhaps the most ecumenical World Youth Days in history, what we have wanted for so long to happen before our eyes, rejoices Marie Bourbonnais, for whom the young generation is less sensitive to the borders between Christian denominations. Above all, an incredible path is opening up. It becomes normal for a gathering around the Pope, head of the Catholic Church, to take place with young people of all denominations. »
A prayer vigil for Christian unity to be held on Thursday August 3, led by the brothers of the Taizé and Chemin-Neuf communities.
Within St. George’s Anglican Church, a space will be set up for retreats in the city, offered by the Chemin-Neuf community.
In the Sao Paulo Cathedral of the Lusitanian Church (member of the Anglican Communion)many conferences, in the program prepared by the French, aimed at 25-35 year olds, will take place on various subjects such as “the economy of François”, a round table on the theme “to give oneself in politics” and another devoted to the mission.