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World Youth Day Cross tours Washington

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Hundreds of people gathered in Washington this weekend to be a part of the journey of the World Youth Day Cross as it travels to Panama for the 33rd World Youth Day celebration in January 2019.

On the Palm Sunday immediately following each World Youth Day, the cross is transferred from the youths of that year’s host country to the youths of the country hosting the next World Youth Day celebration. Since Panama is such a small country, the tour of the World Youth Day Cross prior to the upcoming World Youth Day was expanded to include Central America, the Caribbean, and five cities in the United States: Chicago, Miami, Houston, Washington and Los Angeles.

Young adults from the Diocese of Arlington participated in the daylong event in Washington. Others traveled for hours in order to be a part of the cross’s journey.

Earyn Calvis, a 23-year-old from New Jersey, attended World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland, in 2016 and said it was “something I want to experience over and over again. Anything like it is worth driving hours for.”

Over the past 30 years, the cross has visited every continent except Antarctica. It toured the United States in 1992 and 1993 prior to World Youth Day in Denver, and briefly visited the World Trade Center site in 2002.

In 2003, Pope St. John Paul II gave the youths a replica of the icon of Our Lady Salus Populi Romani (Latin for “Salvation of the Roman People”), which now joins the cross as it travels around the world. The original icon is located at the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, and Pope Francis usually begins and ends his pilgrimages by praying before the icon.

The cross’ visit to Washington began at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, where Panama Archbishop José Domingo Ulloa Mendieta welcomed everyone in advance of the upcoming World Youth Day.

As the group prepared to process through several monuments in the city, Archbishop Ulloa noted how the people remembered in the memorials helped build the United States.

“These people invite us to be different,” he said. “Christ, always young, is inviting us to leave our mark that makes history in the life of others. Let us be the protagonists of this history.”

As the young people processed down the National Mall, the pain of the sexual abuse crisis in the church was felt heavily. In the days leading up to the event, the World Youth Day Cross Leadership Team said they planned to offer the procession “in prayer for the wounded state of Christ’s Church, our city, and our world.”

In his opening remarks, Washington Auxiliary Bishop Roy Campbell Jr. said, “the cross that each of us bear has been made heavier by the recent terrible revelation of decades of sexual abuse of the people of God.”

He added that survivors of abuse “should not have to suffer by carrying the cross of suffering, humiliation or shame.” He encouraged everyone to pray for those victims and to act as “instruments of God’s peace” to prevent future abuse.

Young adults from St. Dominic Church in Washington were among those who carried the cross for the first leg of the procession. The intentions for that part of the journey were for those with disabilities and also for those affected by the abuse scandal.

Once the group had processed to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, Richmond Bishop Barry Knestout reflected on that leader’s “I Have a Dream” speech, in which he was “speaking of a dream for racial harmony … a focus on the dignity of human persons and how that dignity should be reflected in all we say and all we do.”

The cross-bearers for the second leg of the procession included members of the African-American and Hispanic communities, as well as Christian refugees from El Salvador, and young adults from The Catholic University of America in Washington and from the Archdiocese of Baltimore. The intentions were for unity, an end to racial injustice, discrimination and violence, for refugees, and for those who have given their lives defending the country.

The cross-bearers for the next leg of the procession were Hispanic immigrants and Dreamers, and the intentions were for immigrants, for greater solidarity between countries, for the safety of military personnel, and for religious freedom.

The cross made its last stop on the National Mall in front of the Smithsonian Castle, where Washington Auxiliary Bishop Mario Dorsonville reflected further on the cross that Dreamers and other immigrants have to bear.

After the procession concluded, many young adults gathered at the Saint John Paul II National Shrine for an afternoon of prayer, talks and a display of Panamanian culture.

Sankowski is a staff writer for the Catholic Standard in Washington.




© Arlington Catholic Herald 2018