Catholic Church postpones Mini World Youth Day in Tshwane amid COVID-19 pandemic

Dear Nuncio, Cardinal, Archbishops, Bishops, Administrators and Religious Superiors, Diocesan Youth Chaplains, Coordinators, Mentors, Youth Leaders and Committees, Parish Priests, Diocesan Pastoral Councils, Parish Pastoral Councils, Councils for Priests, Youth, Young Adults, Associations / Sodalities / Movements of Young People, the faithful

Re: Mini World Youth Day 2020

On the 28th January 2020 the Youth Office in the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC), which coordinates the planning of the Mini World Youth Day (MWYD) emailed you a letter concerning the plans to host another MWYD in the Archdiocese of Pretoria from the 09-13 December 2020. So much progress was made by the MWYD Secretariat, the MWYD Presidium Team, the MWYD Departments and Committees, Interdiocesan Media and by Diocesan Teams. Achievements had already been made on the logo, the theme, the budgets, the registration packages and link, the prayer, the website, the poster, the bookmarks, the main venue etc. We were also in the process of finalizing deals with bus companies, accommodation venues, catechetical venues, catering companies, etc.

It is important that we draw some insight from scripture to get ourselves reminded that plans for human beings are not final, God knows better. “Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” James 4:13-15. In our opening paragraph we narrated the plans of the Conference and what the MWYD Teams, the Youth and Young adults of the SACBC and beyond were working on and looking forward to; but little did we know that we might end up having things like the lockdown, quarantine, sanitising, washing of hands, self-distancing, walking around in masks, working from home, closure of schools and universities as early as March, and so forth. COVID_19 known as Corona Virus has reached our countries and the numbers are growing every day.

As we all know, all public gatherings were suspended from March and this included our own religious gatherings. We are not sure how long this level 4 lockdown will last or whether we will be requested at some point to go back to level 5. We are just about to begin the flu season and doctors are predicting a pick of this virus right up to September. There is also some indication that we might have this virus around for some time into 2021. With the schools and universities closed for this long, we might have classes running up to late December. Additionally, the Ministers of Education indicated that this academic year might spill over to 2021. Most people are also facing employment and financial challenges which might take a long time for them to recover.

The MWYD Presidium Committee which is chaired by Bishop Stanley Dziuba OSPPE and Sr Hermenegild Makoro CPS made a proposal to the Bishops of the SACBC and the matter was tabled at the SACBC Administrative Board to have the MWYD 2020 postponed to a suitable time and date. The reasons for this proposal include the above mentioned issues but more important the safety of our young people. The Church as a loving parent would not wish to have anyone of us put in danger. We cannot say because we are a faith community, then we have to test God. Even Jesus refused to do such a thing. We have been warned and given tips for survival and let us abide by those regulations. Continuing with plans will also result in a huge financial loss which the SACBC cannot manage, and besides that, it would be extremely difficult to organize anything as most service providers are closed. The SACBC Administrative Board at their 4-5 May 2020 meeting has approved the postponement of the MWYD 2020 and a new date will be announced at a suitable time. The Holy Father has also postponed the World Youth Day (WYD) to August 2023.

Sincerely Yours,
+Stanislaw Jan Dziuba (SACBC Liaison Bishop for Youth
Fr. Mthembeni Dlamini, CMM (SACBC Youth Chaplain)