The next WYD will be held in South Korea, in Seoul, in 2027

The next WYD will be held in South Korea, in Seoul, in 2027

Suddenly, huge flags adorned with Yin and Yang float in the air. On stage, Pope Francis displays a mischievous smile. The pontiff has just released the name of the host city of the next edition of World Youth Days, at the end of the closing mass of those of Lisbon, in Tagus Park. The victorious capital is on the edge of Asia: Seoul!

Usually of a discreet nature, the Koreans let their joy express itself. Beneath their hats and sunglasses, weary but satisfied faces appear. “Korea! Korea!”, They shout together before starting the national anthem.

They are 1,200 young people, 100 priests and 10 bishops to have crossed the planet to come to Lisbon. For a few minutes, the Koreans forget the crushing heat – it’s the hottest day of WYD with a thermometer around 40 degrees – and the short night spent under the stars.

Bona Kim is grateful to the Vatican for choosing her country. “We have experienced incredible things here, I can’t wait to experience the next edition in my country!” she articulates as the WYD anthem blares through the loudspeakers. A symbolic choice for this Korean, who lives in a country with a tense political situation with its border neighbor; “I am sure that the pope will have a strong message to reconcile North and South Korea!” The two countries are still officially at war.

After mass, it’s party time. A theology student in Seoul, Kim Taeyoun, 22, is already impatient to return to Seoul to celebrate this news with his comrades.

WYD in Asia for the second time

This will be the second time the event has taken place on the Asian continent. We have to go back to 1995, under John Paul II. That year, Manila, the Philippine capital, welcomed between 4 and 5 million young people from all over the world. The Argentinian pontiff has already traveled to South Korea for his third apostolic journey, ten years ago, on Asian Youth Day. But it is now the turn of young Catholics from all over the world to discover this culture through Seoul, the capital of 10 million inhabitants. With its contrasting architecture between its gigantic skyscrapers and its small brick houses. Not to mention its modern churches in this country where Catholicism has existed for only two centuries.

Around the small Korean delegation, pilgrims gather: Australians, Brazilians and Portuguese already want to get to know this small island state. “Young people from all over the world will come to us!” exclaims a young 25-year-old seminarian, impatient to introduce his country. “I prayed so much for this moment!” he confides. A wish especially granted at the end of a fruitful diplomacy led by the Archbishop of Seoul, Peter Chung Soon-taick, convinced that this “extraordinary” opportunity could “relaunch the pastoral care of young people in the country with the lowest birth rate in the world. world.” Above all, this East Asian country displays a striking figure: 56% of the population declares itself to have no religion according to the last census of 2015. With only 8% of Catholics – against 20% of Protestants or 15% of Buddhists – this event promises to be an opportunity to make this religion known to the rest of the population and to attract distant Catholics.

Restore the image of the Korean Church

Above all, the community must now convince the rest of the population that this planetary event will be beneficial for the country. “And not messy,” adds Father Lee Hyojong, while glancing uncertainly at this huge crowd of a million young people. The announcement of the location of the next WYD echoes the great gathering of Scouts from all over the world with 40,000 participants, which is being held until August 12 in South Korea. The publicity is far from glorious, with local media calling the situation “a national disgrace”. In question: an unanticipated heat wave that killed 600 scouts, victims of heatstroke or headaches. All in “rudimentary” sanitary conditions. A blow to the tarnished image of the Korean Church.

The challenge will therefore be daunting. But the Korean delegation is determined to welcome the whole world to its soil and to promote the dynamism of its community. Here are already some young people distributing tracts of the Virgin with a prayer in Korean behind and milk candies…made in Korea!

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