Sunday, May 1, 2011

World Youth Day innovations started in Manila '95

MANILA, Philippines—Pope John Paul II’s second and last visit to Manila for World Youth Day in January 1995 was marked by a final Mass at Rizal Park that was attended by an estimated five million devotees.

Some people declared it the largest papal gathering in Roman Catholic history and others suggested it might have been the biggest Christian gathering in history. Possible, but it’s difficult to ascertain comparable gatherings.

Not widely known is that the Philippine experience, the first ever held in Asia, contributed two innovations—a hymn and a logo—that now form part of all World Youth Day celebrations.

The hymn, the result of a nationwide song-writing contest done by the dioceses, eventually became a hit tune, “Tell the World of His Love.”

Written by Filipino composer Trina Belamide, the hymn revolves around the overall theme “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (John 20:21). It opens with this line: “God so loved the world that He sent His only Son” (John 3:16).

Engaging the youth

That the first hymn and logo for World Youth Day were composed and produced in the Philippines, and carried forward, is a miracle of sorts.

A year before the international youth gathering on Jan. 10-15, 1995, a committee was organized by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) headed by Bishop Leo Drona to start preparations.

The Philippine innovations began at that point. Instead of a written report describing the proposed preparations, the CBCP committee sent a multimedia computer presentation.

Among the plan’s major objectives was to engage the youth at the diocesan level to participate and build up interest leading to World Youth Day.

A nationwide logo design and a song-writing contest were proposed.

The winning logo design shows a native wooden boat with its sail hanging on a cross and a number of fishermen casting nets on its side, evoking the words “I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19) and supporting the overall theme.

Work of love

It was a work of love from start to finish.

Ed Bulaong fashioned a 30-second commercial in his audiovisual shop. The Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas, led by Andre Kahn and Bobby Barreiro, now of TV5, donated free air time.

Tessie Daza donated billboards in visible areas. Ronnie Presa and Eli Tumbaga of San Miguel Corp. coordinated the effort.

A select board of judges, joined by Bishop Renato Boccardo of the Vatican, picked the winners.

After 1995, the Philippine example of having a logo and a hymn to illustrate the theme was followed in the succeeding World Youth Days in Paris, France; Rome, Italy; Toronto, Canada; Cologne, Germany; and Sydney, Australia.

Next year’s assembly will be in Madrid, Spain.

World Youth Day began in Rome in 1986. Before Manila, it was celebrated in Buenos Aires, Argentina; Santiago de Compostela, Spain; Czestochowa, Poland; and Denver in the United States.

Precious memories

Pope John Paul II was to have returned to Manila in 2003 for the World Meeting of Families. But advancing health problems prevented this.

He died on April 2, 2005, at the age of 84, leaving us precious memories of his last visit to the Philippines.

He was the most traveled Pope in the history of the papacy, logging over a million kilometers in visiting 129 countries.

His 27-year papacy was the second longest, exceeded only by Pope Pius IX who served for 31 years in the 19th century.

The song “Tell the World of His Love” speaks of the Father’s love for His flock. It can well speak also of Pope John Paul II’s love for his flock in the Philippines:

Let us tell the world of His love,

The greatest love the world has known

Search the world for those who have walked

Astray and lead them home

Fill the world’s darkest corners

With His light from up above

Walk every step, every mile, every road

And tell the world of His love.


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