When neo-cardinal American Kevin Farrell took over the recently created Vatican mega-office for Laity, Family and Life, he inherited a few equally mega-projects, including the World Meeting of Families and World Youth Day, both large-scale encounters that take place in different cities every two or three years.
The last World Meeting of Families took place in Philadelphia, and it
was the engine driving Pope Francis’s first-ever visit to the United
States in September 2015.
The next one will be in Dublin, in 2018, and
the pontiff is expected to participate.
Francis’s first foreign trip was to Brazil, to lead over three
million young people in Rio’s World Youth Day (WYD) and the most recent
one took place last summer in Krakow, Poland.
The next WYD will be in
Panama in 2019, and with less than three months in office, Farrell has
already been down to oversee the initial plans.
Both are complicated gatherings to organize, since it involves a
local diocese opening its doors to hundreds of thousands of pilgrims
from around the world, most of them on a pilgrim’s budget, and the
organizing committee has to figure out lodging, meals and transportation
Born during the pontificate of St. John Paul II, these encounters
have fans and detractors, with the admirers defining them as
unforgettable experiences of faith and a unique way of experiencing the
universality of the Church.
Those who oppose them, see them as a waste
of money and time, and an opportunity available only for those who can
Few know the ins-and-outs of these gatherings as well as layman Yago
de la Cierva, a Spaniard member of Opus Dei, who was the head of World
Youth Day Madrid, back in 2011, and who has helped organizers ever
“If there’s no evaluation, there’s no way of improving in the
future,” de la Cierva told journalists in Rome on Tuesday. “There are
three main issues that have to be addressed in the future: money,
spiritual fruits (not in that order), and media. If for the media WYD
failed, we’re not able to communicate the message.”
In Krakow, he was part of the communications team and he was in Rome
ahead of a trip to Panama, where he’s been called to give feedback and
The costs of WYD Krakow
One of the biggest challenges of these events is money-management and
On Dec. 22, the organizing committee had a press conference
where the final numbers where given.
They estimated the number of
pilgrims at two million, generating a “World Youth Day” bump for the
city of Krakow of over $100 million dollars.
Funding of the event, they said, came from four primary sources:
registration and participation fees (papal events were free),
sponsorship contracts and monetary donations, donations made by
parishioners and endowments from the World Youth Day general fund.
The money raised, $48.7 million, was slightly superior to the $48.5
million spent throughout the three-year preparation process. This
included everything, from salaries for those working full-time to put
the event together- though most people were volunteers- to the
preparation of the venues.
According to information provided by De la Cierva on Tuesday, this
was the cheapest WYD with Rio in 2013 having been at least twice as
expensive as the past four.
The Brazilian diocese had some $46 million
in deficit, while Toronto in 2002 finished $22 million in the red.
Madrid, on the other hand, had a $7 million surplus.
De la Cierva broke down the incomes, with the participants paying for
the majority of the expenses: close to $34 million.
and state support each pitched in a little over $4 million, with the
majority of public funding going towards security expenses.
The money, according to the expert, was spent mostly on the pilgrims
and volunteers (some $25 million), with meals being the most significant
expense (over $13 million).
Campus Misericoriae, the setting for the closing vigil and
Mass on the outskirts of Krakow, had an estimated cost of $9 million.
Some observers, De la Cierva included, believe this was an unnecessary
expense that’s recurrent in WYD and which can be saved by having only
one stage instead of the customary two for all the “main events” as the
encounters between the pilgrims and the pope are called.
An update from Panama
Farrell was in the Caribbean country in early December. During a
press conference on the 8th he predicted the 2019 meeting will be “a
historic moment for the Church and the country.”
The cardinal praised the Panamanians, saying they not only have a
“very big heart” and are “open to everybody,” but they also have “the
capacity” to host the meeting, which according to the national
government will bring close to half a million pilgrims from around the
WYD Panama, he added, might bring “some peace and stability to every community of Central America.”
“It’s important that we take into consideration the role this great
nation can have in the historic unification of the countries from the
north and the south,” Farrell said. “In this moment in history more than
ever, we need an intermediary to bring peace and unity to all.”
According to De la Cierva, the event will take place either at the
end of January or early February, which will make participation harder
for North Americans and Europeans, who will be in school at the time.
However, the date has been chosen to avoid the rainy season.
He also highlighted the government’s commitment to making the event a
success as part of a broader campaign to make Panama a hub connecting
Another tidbit he gave is that the week previous to World Youth Day,
known as “Days in the Dioceses” will take place not only in other
Panamanian cities but also in other countries of Central America, such
as Costa Rica and El Salvador.