“The new generations are not only the preferred audience of this transmission and sharing [of Catholic tradition], but also those whose hearts await truth and happiness in order to be able to give Christian witness, as happens already in an admirable way. I myself have been witness to it in Sydney at the recent World Youth Day. And therefore I encourage the Pontifical Council for the Laity to continue the work of this providential global youth pilgrimage in the name of Christ, and to work at the promotion of youth ministry and their authentic education everywhere”. These words were spoken by Benedict XVI at an audience with the Pontifical Council for the Laity on 15 November 2008.
The importance that the Pope and the Church attribute to the world of youth now and for the future was clearly made manifest when the Youth Section of the Pontifical Council for the Laity was opened in 1986 by John Paul II.
The Youth Section is a point of reference for the universal Church in its communication of initiatives on the part of the Holy Father; it is at the service of bishops’ conferences in the sector of youth pastoral ministry; it communicates with international youth associations and encourages collaboration and gatherings among the movements; it organises youth ministry meetings at international and continental level.
Within the sphere of the Holy See, the Youth Section of the Pontifical Council for the Laity has the role of promoting awareness in other dicasteries of matters concerning youth issues and ministry. It is a centre of information on the situation of pastoral ministry and apostolate of the young at global level.
The high points in its activities are the preparation of World Youth Day, established by John Paul II in 1985 (held annually in the local Churches), and the organisation of the global meetings of the Pope with young people (every two or three years in a different country each time). In addition, the Youth Section organises an International Youth Forum once every three years.
On behalf of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, the Section promotes and coordinates the activities of the San Lorenzo International Youth Centre. This centre in Rome was opened in response to John Paul II’s desire to have a place of welcome and evangelisation for young pilgrims who come to Rome.
The activities of the Youth Section are sustained by the John Paul II Youth Foundation. It was erected as a public juridical person on 29 June 1991 by the President of the PCL so that it could “contribute to putting into practice the teaching of the magisterium of the Catholic Church in the matter of the priority of youth pastoral ministry, in particular as manifested in World Youth Day” and “to advance the evangelisation of young people and to support youth ministry throughout the world” (Statutes, art. 1, 2.1).