Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The pope and the youth in the digital world

THE 26 years of petrine ministry of the late Pope John Paul II is crowded with monumental deeds of both ecclesiastical and social imports. The universal catechism, the new code of canon law and his intervention in the final collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, are just a few of his colossal legacies to humanity.

Disputable as it may seem, but the most impact-making of the late Pope’s initiatives was the institutionalization of the World Youth Day in 1986. If only to prove this point, nobody has yet seen people, whether young or old, getting converted, or at least recovering the sense of the sacred, while browsing the new code of canon law or the universal catechism. On the other hand, the world sees millions of young people recovering something everytime there is a world gathering of the youth. The Luneta in Manila is a mute witness to conversions among the youth in 1995 numbering about 6 or so millions that earned the moniker “an excess of success.” The latest gathering in Australia the other year is a relative case in point, which until now still lingers even in the mind of onlookers.

At the onset of his pontificate, John Paul II was already very passionate about young people: “Do not be afraid! Open, indeed, open wide the doors to Christ! Open to his saving power…do not be afraid.” Repeatedly in succeeding documents he would declare his conviction that “the future belongs to the youth.”

The 5th Asian Youth Day, which is going to be celebrated in the Philippines in a couple of days, is an offshoot of this conviction. It is happy to note that Episcopal Conferences of Asia, as maybe in other continents, have taken serious steps in upbeating the youth apostolate. The Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, for instance, has conducted of late a survey which reveals disquieting findings prevalent among Asian Youth which, understandably, is weighed down by the plurality of cross-cultural determinants.

But perhaps nothing is as avant-garde as the initiative of the chair of the Episcopal Commission on Youth of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, Most Rev. Joel Baylon. For a year now, he has been belaboring a brain child that he intends to deploy as “online missionaries”. In a collaborative effort with the CBCP Media Office, Baylon has organized a group of young people whose culture is very much intertwined with the digital world—they move and breathe according to the number of online applications or platforms and the size of available broadband.

Youth Pinoy is the group’s name. And “Winning the World through the Word” is their campaign that easily goes comfortably with the World Wide Web in Whether these online missionaries will matter or not is not exactly the issue. What is of consequence is that they know where to relate with their own kind.

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