Volunteers are not the only aspects missing five months away from World Youth Day. There is a lot of building work still to get through. Image: António Cotrim/ Lusa

“Many more volunteers needed” for Catholic Church’s World Youth Day in Lisbon

Largest event of Catholic Church “needs another 20,000 volunteers”

At one of the most delicate moments for the Portuguese Catholic Church – a point where even religious associations have been shocked by the institution’s perceived lack of awareness – Lusa news agency has revealed that 20,000 more volunteers are needed to help organise World Youth Day, taking place in Lisbon in August.

Clerics have already stressed that they do not believe the scandal involving thousands of cases of pedophilia largely perpetrated by Portuguese priests will have any effect on the multi-million euro event to which Pope Francis is expected.

But the first paragraph of Lusa’s text today, refers to the fact that “hundreds of young people have already set to work to help organise WYD” but they still constitute only “a third of those needed”.

“We still need many volunteers, really many“, coordinator Margarida Manaia stresses.

With just under five months to go before the event opens, there are 10,000 volunteers signed up while the organisation aims to have the support of around 30,000, explains Lusa.

All volunteers will receive training during the week starting 23rd July, but that doesn’t mean that is when they are required: “We are talking about receiving hundreds of thousands of people in Lisbon, who don’t know the city, many don’t speak Portuguese, so the volunteers have to arrive some time before“, said Manaia.

Another intriguing aspect of being a volunteer at WYD is that one has to pay for the privilege. Explains Lusa, there are four optionsThe cheapest being €30 euros, and including just transport and insurance. This is the only option available to young people signing up through parishes. Then there are two options which include food (€90 for a fortnight and €60 from July 31) and a fourth which also provides accommodation, at €145. In this case, volunteers stay overnight in collective spaces, such as schools or sports halls, accompanied by couples who will be “house parents“, explained Margarida Manaia.

Around 1.5 million people are expected for the 16th WYD, which will take place between August 1 and 6, and which has already seen short term rentals prices, hotels and even airlines increase prices exponentially.

According to seasoned volunteers, like Raquel Ventura from Brazil, Lisbon’s WYD will be a “continuation of an experience that began in the days of (WYD in) Rio de Janeiro (in 2013) and ignited in my heart the desire to serve the days, to ‘see’ the universality of faith and youth, of how beautiful it is to represent love and to be able to live this with youth”.

It is impressions of young people like Raquel Ventura that underscore concerns by religious associations that the Church’s idea to ‘hold a memorial to victims of sexual abuse’ – perpetrated by members of the insitution – at WYD may not fit with the overall concept of a beautiful experience representing the universality of faith, youth and love.

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