TYLER, Texas (LifeSiteNews) — Tyler’s Bishop Joseph Strickland has publicly criticized the current World Youth Day for having “fallen prey to the current trend to secularize the Catholic Church and de-emphasize Jesus Christ.”
In a short post on X—formerly called Twitter—Bishop Strickland slated World Youth Day (WYD), which is currently taking place in Lisbon.
What a tragedy that World Youth Day has fallen prey to the current trend to secularize the Catholic Church & de- emphasize Jesus Christ. No wonder it will have the lowest attendance since John Paul II first began WYD in 1986. It WAS a beautiful moment of evangelization.
— Bishop J. Strickland (@Bishopoftyler) August 1, 2023
Running August 1 through 6, the 17th World Youth Day will see Pope Francis join the assembled participants August 2–6. The international event, first started by Pope John Paul II in 1984, has seen over 350,000 registered participants attend so far, though organizers suggest that the number of unregistered participants is to be far greater.
But it has been marked by notable elements of controversy, including a statement made by WYD organizer Cardinal-designate Américo Manuel Alves Aguiar, the auxiliary bishop of Lisbon.
The 49-year-old prelate—who previously served as a council member of his local Socialist Party between 1994 and 1997— made waves amongst the Catholic media when he stated that WYD was not for converting people to Christ.
“Não queremos converter jovens a Cristo”.
Igreja Conciliar resumida num vídeo: pic.twitter.com/CSHKbckP3M
— Rafael da Silva (@AMDG1305) July 7, 2023
Explaining the purpose of the Lisbon WYD, Aguiar cited Pope Francis’ Fratelli Tutti and stated:
Enjoy being with each other. And in the end, we joined hands and said “I think differently, I feel differently, I organize my life differently but we are brothers and we are going to build the future together.” This is the main message of the encounter with the living Christ that the Pope wants to offer young people. We don’t want to convert people to Christ or to the Catholic Church or anything like that. Absolutely!
In fact, arriving to Lisbon on August 2, Pope Francis signaled that the WYD was indeed a project run based on the ideology of his Fratelli Tutti, as he signed the Portuguese president’s book of honor with the words: “I pray and hope that this young-hearted country will continue to move forward towards horizons of fraternity.”
#PopeFrancis has signed the book of honor while visiting the Portuguese president, noting that #WYD2023 is specifically based on his concept of fraternity, ie Fratelli Tutti. pic.twitter.com/px0FRz8z2u
— Michael Haynes 🇻🇦 (@MLJHaynes) August 2, 2023
WYD organizers have also given considerable priority to “interfaith dialogue” and “sustainability.” Participants are encouraged to visit Catholic churches, but also the local synagogue, two mosques, and a Hindu temple. Additionally, the organizers have noted that “leaders of other faiths will be present at various events of the WYD Lisbon 2023 presided over by the Pope.”
According to The Pillar, organizers were informed that this ecumenical aspect of WYD was a direct request from Pope Francis as one of his priorities, given the week’s underpinning by the themes of Fratelli Tutti.
Elements central to “climate change” ideology are also high on the WYD priorities, which is also due to the Pope’s specific intervention. Drawing from Pope Francis’ many interventions on the need for an “ecological conversion,” the WYD organizers made “sustainability a central objective of the organization.”
Part of this involves the WYD team committing to “offset part of the environmental footprint generated by all activities involving this organization,” which involves collaborating in the Global Tree Initiative.
Alongside this is an international conference on climate issues, at which the Vatican’s Cardinal Michael Czerny, S.J., summarized themes from the Pope’s numerous speeches on the topic and called for religions to render proper service to achieving the goal of reducing “greenhouse gas emissions.”
As LifeSite has reported, notoriously pro-LGBT Jesuit, Father James Martin, also took part in the events on offer to participants of World Youth Day. He delivered a talk on frequently asked questions about faith as part of the “Youth Festival,” which runs the full length of the days, and offers participants various options of activities aside from the main Papal events.
Bishop Strickland’s criticism of WYD as having “fallen prey to the current trend to secularize the Catholic Church & de- emphasize Jesus Christ” could be based also in the official description of the week’s events: “Although its Catholic identity is clearly evident, WYD opens its doors to everyone, no matter how close to or distant from the Church they are.”