Cameras panned around the packed and colourful arena of around 8,000 school and confirmation groups, diocesan youth and young people with CAFOD, HCPT, Salesians, and others, many holding up lights from their mobile phones in the first gathering since 2019. Every diocese in England and Wales was represented, judging by the cheering during a diocesan roll call. Many groups had been travelling from the early hours and faced lengthy journeys home afterwards. However, enthusiastic exuberance filled the arena throughout.
Musicians Guvna B, Adeniké and One Hope Project were much appreciated for their lively and participatory worship style.
The vast audience listened attentively as various speakers spoke about angels in our world today and need to rise up and meet local and global challenges. Principal speaker Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle (formerly Archbishop of Manila and now based at the Vatican) reminded that “rising up” has many aspects. He mentioned some of the “angels” that had inspired him during his life to “rise up” and serve God and his neighbour. There was his paternal grandmother, who supported her five children in widowhood after her husband had been killed in WWII and he called for “No More War”. Also, his maternal grandfather who was a migrant from China, and he said, “for migrants who can contribute to their new society, I say rise up”. He suggested that God sends angels to all of us, in the form of key people we meet in the course of our lives. He urged us to be ready to recognise and respond to them, “rising up” in a spirit of service.
Pope Francis sent a message saying, “be known for prayer, pursuit of justice and common good, love for the poor and social friendship – and dare to be different”.
Further inspirational speakers included Archbishop Timothy Costelloe of Perth who urged the young people to be active in the Church and the world. “On the way home from Flame” he said, “ask, ‘what do I need to do?” Robert Bilott, an attorney from the United States Cincinnati who stood up for communities injured by chemical poisoning said he knew that taking on the DuPont company was like David taking on Goliath but it was “the right thing to do”. A clip of the film ‘Dark Water’ about his life was shown and there was cheering when youth recognised actors Mark Ruffalo and Anne Hathaway – The Incredible Hulk and Catwomen!
CAFOD partner Jenny Garzón Saavedra from Colombia, talked about her work with youth and parish groups, helping communities learn about caring for creation Jenny has witnessed the Amazon being deforested to make room for cattle. She spoke of having hope and “I believe that God works miracles,” but it is important for everyone “to hear the cry of the Earth and of the poor and to respond.”
The event wound up with a quiet time of ‘Adoration’. Cardinal Vincent Nichols spoke of “how much we have to thank God for today – the music, testimonies and moments to treasure and draw encouragement.”
At the end of the event Columban Director in Britain Fr. John Boles and Ellen Teague (JPIC Media) had the opportunity to meet Cardinal Tagle who knows the Columbans in the Philippines well. He felt young people “are very receptive to the Gospel when presented in a manner that reaches them” and felt the Gospel’s “joyful message of love is relevant to everybody.”