10,000 Reasons to believe in the young people of England and Wales

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Flame 2017, held at The SSE Arena, Wembley, on Saturday 11 March, saw almost 10,000 young people coming together to interact and celebrate their faith together. Flame Congress is a joint production of CYMEvents, the events branch of the Catholic Youth Ministry Federation, and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. The theme of the 2017 congress was 10,000 Reasons, encouraging the young people to be a part of 10,000 reasons to believe, hope, and pray. Fr Dermott Donnelly, chair of the Catholic Youth Ministry Federation (CYMFed) and the director of Youth Services in Hexham and Newcastle diocese encouraged all present to ‘experience the vibrancy and hope that … a new experience of Jesus brings’.

Music was provided by a range of musicians, from the community and music group, One Hope Project, Jasmine Elcock (Ant and Dec’s ‘golden buzzer act’ on Britain’s Got Talent 2016) and double Grammy award-winning Matt Redman. The theme itself was taken from Matt Redman’s song of the same name.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols delivered a message from His Holiness, Pope Francis, who hoped that Flame 2017 would ‘foster a greater zeal’ to ‘blaze trails that open up new horizons capable of spreading joy’. Cardinal Charles Bo of Myanmar (Burma) explained the political and religious situation in the country, as well as inspiring the young people present to be courageous in making a difference in their own societies and beyond. The highlight of Cardinal Bo’s speech was the interactive use of the poem It depends on whose hands it’s in. The delegates also heard from a range of speakers on topics from refugee care to environmental issues from Sarah Teather of the Jesuit Refugee Service and Fr Augusto Zampini Davies of CAFOD, respectively.

Solidarity with and welcoming refugees was a key theme in many elements of the event. This was emphasised by the presence of a 30 foot boat that carried 37 people, from North Africa to Lampedusa, fleeing violence and war,. During the afternoon Liturgy, Cardinal Nichols offered prayers for the estimated 10,000 refugees that have drowned whilst attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea. He then blessed Boat TO6411 as ‘a symbol of hope for people in despair … a symbol of new beginnings … a symbol of safety and a symbol of all our journeys, as one family, united in God’s love.’ This boat blessing was followed by a Liturgy of readings, prayers and adoration of Christ in the Blessed Eucharist.

All present were encouraged to use Twitter, Instagram and all social media to express their thoughts, emotions and images of the event. Hexham and Newcastle Youth Ministry team tweeted ‘10,000 hearts touched. The Church is alive and we are part of it’, and Brentwood Catholic Youth Service wrote, ‘We are hopeful because we have been inspired today by great speakers.’ To find more reflections and photographs, find #Flame2017 on Twitter.

The Catholic Youth Ministry Federation and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales would also like to thank The Salesians of Don Bosco, The Catenian Association, St Mary’s University, Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, Redemptorist Publications and CAFOD, amongst others.

Official photographs can be found here: flickr.com