Anglicans shut out of World Youth Day

Published April 1, 2002

Despite recent moves toward closer relations between Anglicans and Roman Catholics, a major Catholic youth event scheduled for July in Toronto will apparently have little Anglican participation.

World Youth Day, which is actually two weeks of events, will bring Pope John Paul II and thousands of Catholic young people to Canada from around the world.

From July 18 to 28, participants will stay with local families, perform social service activities, pray, reflect, march in downtown Toronto and attend a vigil and mass with the Pope. Estimates of the numbers attending vary, but organizers say that a total of about 750,000 are expected. As of March 11, 125,000 registrations had been received from 130 countries, according to organizers.

The Anglican diocese of Toronto wrote to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto “to offer billets and meeting space,” said Mary Conliffe, administrative assistant to Archdeacon Colin Johnson, who is executive assistant to Anglican Archbishop Terence Finlay.

“They wrote back and asked us to put together a small committee to interface with them and the committee is being formed,” she said.

Opportunities for members of non-Catholic denominations to participate seem somewhat limited at the current planning stage. “We’re having meetings with church representatives in Toronto to try to begin that process and see what we are going to do in the program,” said Paul Kilbertus, director of communications for World Youth Day.

Although a Saturday evening prayer vigil with the Pope and Sunday morning mass are “open to anyone who wants to come,” Mr. Kilbertus noted that “it’s a Catholic mass and it is according to our traditions.”

There are no plans for specific areas for visitors of other denominations, he said. Non-Catholics are not allowed to take communion at a Catholic mass, although in practical terms it can be difficult to tell who is Catholic and non-Catholic at the altar. The vigil and mass are scheduled to take place at Downsview, a former Canadian Forces base northwest of downtown Toronto with a large amount of open land.

Mr. Kilbertus said the Anglican diocese was asked whether World Youth Day participants might volunteer at Anglican social agencies, since two afternoons have been set aside for participation in social services.

However, Rev. Jim Houston, acting director of community ministries at the diocese of Toronto, declined to participate, sending the World Youth Day query on to another social agency.

“There was no way I was going to wish that on my agencies. What help is that going to be – two days on somebody else’s timetable?” said Mr. Houston. “In the early days I called the archdiocese people and said, ‘Is there a role for Anglican youth?’ and I was told no. All of a sudden they decide there is a role,” he said.

The initial lack of an ecumenical component to World Youth Day comes two years after Catholic and Anglican bishops from around the world met in Mississauga, Ont., and agreed to work toward closer relations. Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey attended that meeting, along with Edward Cardinal Cassidy, then president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.


  • Solange DeSantis

    Solange De Santis was a reporter for the Anglican Journal from 2000 to 2008.

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