Filipino Catholics kicked off their observance of a special year for the youth with a call from church leaders for young people to let their voices be heard both within and outside the church. The country's Catholic bishops have declared 2019 as the "Year of the Youth," part of its "nine-year journey for new evangelization" that started in 2013 and ends in 2021, the fifth centenary of the arrival of Christianity in the Philippines. The celebration began on Dec. 2, first Sunday of Advent
, and carries the theme "Filipino Youth in Mission: Beloved, Gifted, Empowered." In a pastoral letter, Catholic bishops said young people are the "catalysts of change" capable of efforts for a "renewed church and society." "Awaken the shepherds in us, your elders," Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao
, president of the Philippine bishops' conference said. He urged young people to "rekindle the fire of faith, hope and love in everyone in the church so that together, we can journey and minister with you." In an open letter to church leaders, young Filipinos expressed their wish "to be given more opportunities to share ourselves." In his own letter, Archbishop Valles said bishops see youth as the "protagonists of this change" and the "dynamic force of the church" who should "reach out to the peripheries to bring Jesus and His message of salvation to the lost, the least and the last." He said people these days face depression, suicide, substance abuse, HIV/AIDS, and other problems that affect not only their lives but also their spirituality. "We look at you our young people, so full of dynamism, as disciples sent on a mission to make disciples of Jesus," said the prelate Celebrations
Young Filipino Catholics across the country welcomed the launch of the yearlong observance. In Balanga Diocese
, about 150 kilometers north of Manila, Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia, papal nuncio to the Philippines, walked with hundreds of young people to the top of a mountain as part of a Holy Eucharist celebration on Dec. 1. The launching of the observance in the diocese coincided with the ninth Central Luzon Youth convention and pilgrimage, hosted by Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga.
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In Manila Archdiocese, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle joined thousands of young people in welcoming the "Year of the Youth" on Dec. 2. In his message, the prelate reminded the youth of the importance of the Advent season and its meaning in people's lives. "Our future has a name, Jesus," said Cardinal Tagle. "It is not ambition, wealth, but Jesus," he said as he challenged those present to be "missionaries of Jesus ... and find strength in him."