This week I want to comment on two significant events:
1) I write in advance of the National Catholic Youth Conference to take place in Atlanta, Georgia, this weekend. Thanks to your encouragement and support, 700 young people from our diocese will be attending. They will be among some 20,000 teens from our nation who will gather in that great city to celebrate their faith. And, celebrate they will!
They will engage in a variety of activities designed to help them grow as friends and disciples of the Lord. There will be presentations on such topics as dating, stress management, peer pressure, faith at college, spirituality, giftedness, the Eucharist, poverty, media and values, living a happy life, and prayer and worship.
Attention to the spiritual life is a high priority at NCYC. There will be a Eucharistic liturgy each day — an especially amazing experience with 20,000 singing, celebrating young people. And, there will be ample opportunity to celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation during the conference. I’ll be among the many bishops and priests who will participate in both. In addition to these sacramental celebrations, the kids gather for prayer and reflection at the end of each day.
Of course, of great importance at such events is that the kids have fun together. To that end, they enjoy a variety of activities. There are dances and concerts, games and a comedy club. All of those are important and add much to the experience. But to me, what makes the whole conference so powerful is the presence in one place of so many gifted, searching, faithful, beautiful young people. Their presence is one that makes a deep and lasting impression on all who experience it. I have heard many say that over the years, and, I know that it is true for me.
Our Atlanta pilgrims will be on their way home by the time you read this. I hope that you will have a chance to speak with them, or to hear them share their impressions and memories of NCYC with the parish community. I am sure that, if you can, it will strengthen your faith and brighten your spirits.
2) A Jewish-Roman Catholic group from Rochester will be visiting Rome during the first week of November. We will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of Nostra Aetate (the Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions), a document that did much to promote and enable improved relations between our two communities. We will also be anticipating the coming 10th anniversary of our local Jewish-Roman Catholic Agreement.
We have an appointment with Cardinal Walter Kasper, the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews.
A highlight of our trip will be an opportunity to participate in the weekly audience offered by Pope Benedict XVI. He has devoted much time and energy in his young pontificate to Catholic relations with the Jewish community. In light of that, we are hoping that he may have a moment to greet our group.
In addition to those events, we will be enjoying some of Rome’s great artistic, religious and cultural heritage. Our focus will be on themes that are a part of our common heritage — always with the hope of healing old wounds and growing in mutual respect.
Please pray for God’s blessings on this journey and be assured of my prayers for you while we are in Rome.
Peace to all.