The World Youth Day and the World Meeting of Families have been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Vatican announced yesterday.
The World Meeting of Families was to take place in Rome in June 2021 and the World Youth Day was being organised by Lisbon for 2022.
Both will be set back by precisely one year.
Uncertainty caused by the pandemic and fears of a financial crisis which is to follow have cast a shadow over the preparations for the World Youth Day, a massive event which attracts hundreds of thousands and requires extensive fundraising and logistical planning.
A short notice published on the Vatican website stated: "Due to the current health situation, and its consequences for youth and family groups and movements, the Holy Father, together with the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, has decided to postpone the next World Meeting of Families, scheduled for Rome in June, 2021, and the World Youth Meeting, scheduled for Lisbon, August 2022, to June 2022 and August 2023, respectively."
Cardinal Kevin Farrell, prefect of the dicastery, told Catholic News Service that now is the time his office would be signing contracts with hotels and airlines if the World Meeting of Families were still to be held in 2021, "but no one knows what will happen", so it seemed prudent to push the meeting back a year.
The dicastery also would not hold two large gatherings during the same summer, so that was one reason World Youth Day was pushed back, he said.
The other reason, Cardinal Farrell said, is that although people are talking about "returning to normal" and government leaders are making plans for phasing out lockdowns and reopening businesses, "we do not believe travel will be that extensive" anytime soon.
The dicastery has canceled all international meetings until January 2021, although it is planning for a few young people from Panama, where World Youth Day was celebrated in 2019, to hand the World Youth Day cross to a few young people from Lisbon Nov 22, the feast of Christ the King.
The hand over was originally scheduled for April 5, Palm Sunday, but was postponed because of the lockdowns and travel bans in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
If the young representatives from Panama and Portugal are not able to travel to Rome in November, Cardinal Farrell said, Panamanians and Portuguese already living in Rome will participate in the event.