Asked for his thoughts and reflections about World Youth Day 2013 Archbishop Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham, said: “As I prepare to leave Rio de Janeiro at the conclusion of World Youth Day I am taking some striking images and deep impressions back to Birmingham.
“Over the days in Rio you could see Pope Francis warming to the enormous crowds of young people who did not hold back their affection for him.
“I was truly struck by the Holy Father’s energy and wish to reach as many people as possible as our Chief Pastor. He must have been both exhausted and exhilarated on his return to the Vatican, thankful for the powerful presence of Christ as we met under the watchful embrace of Cristo Redentor overlooking the city of Rio.”
The Archbishop of Birmingham said: “I admire greatly the faith of the young pilgrims I met at WYD in Rio and I am grateful to have spent so much time on pilgrimage with the fifty young Catholics from the Archdiocese of Birmingham.
“Despite the concerns about safety that had been raised beforehand nobody was held back from participating fully and joyfully in a safe atmosphere during our week in Rio.”
Archbishop Longley emphasised: “It was an amazing experience for everyone to be among the more than three million young pilgrims who were at the closing Mass with Pope Francis on Sunday (28 July). There was a real sense of joy at being Catholics united with the Holy Father and an incredible sense of the Church’s universality.
“The direct and encouraging teaching of Pope Francis and his ability to connect so readily with all the young people was complemented by the gatherings every morning with different bishops for catechesis and Mass.
“It was a particular joy to hear Bishop Charles Scicluna from Malta strengthening the faith of our pilgrims during his first World Youth Day as bishop.”
Archbishop Longley, a member of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization, said: “During the daily catechesis young pilgrims also had an opportunity to witness to their faith by offering testimony. We heard some uplifting and powerfully moving stories of faith deepened and redeeming grace at work in the experiences of many young pilgrims.”
Archbishop Longley stressed: “I leave Rio grateful for the privilege of seeing a true culture of vocation among these young disciples of Christ. My own faith is strengthened through their example and I feel confident about the leadership that they are already giving in schools, universities and parishes across the Archdiocese of Birmingham.”
Archbishop Longley added: “I am also glad to have experienced this year’s World Youth Day alongside Bishop Alan Hopes from East Anglia, Bishop John Sherrington from Westminster and our own Bishop William Kenney from Birmingham. We all feel very uplifted by the last few days in Brazil.”