22 February 2023, The Tablet

Flame 2023 – a call to 'rise up'

Young Catholics in the UK will gather 150 days before World Youth Day in Lisbon.

Flame 2023 – a call to 'rise up'

Flame 2019 at the Wembley Arena was the largest-ever Catholic youth event in the UK.
Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales/Mazur

At least 8,000 people, most under 30, are booked to attend the Flame conference next weekend.

The biggest Catholic youth event in the UK is returning to the OVO Arena in Wembley on 4 March after a Covid break since Flame 2019.

The organiser CYMFED – the Catholic Youth Ministry Federation – told The Tablet: “We have intended for each element to be an encouragement to young Catholics to ‘rise up’”.

The theme of Flame 2023, which is taking place 150 days before World Youth Day in Lisbon, has taken its theme from the World Youth Day scripture, “Mary arose and went with haste.”

CYFED is calling on young people “to rise up after the pandemic, rise up as young Catholics and rise up – as Mary did – for the surprising and beautiful adventure that is our Catholic faith”. Sponsors include the Catenians, Jesuits and CCLA Good Investment.

More than 100 groups are booked from 20 dioceses, and several religious orders, such as the Salesians, Columbans and Religious of the Assumption are bringing groups.

Others are from organisations such as Youth 2000, SVP and Cafod while some are from schools and parishes.

Among the 17 bishops attending the conference will be the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Vincent Nichols, who will the final liturgy including adoration and benediction.

Guest speakers include Filipino Cardinal Luis Tagle, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples.

Also present will be the Archbishop of Perth, Timothy Costelloe, the president of the Australian bishops’ conference and a Salesian of Don Bosco, an international order of Catholic priests and brothers dedicated to the service of the young, especially the disadvantaged and marginalised.

He spoke earlier this month in Oceania about Care of Creation, having witnessed the impacts of climate change in Fiji.

Flame participants will hear from Jenny Garzón Saavedra, who works with Cafod’s church partner Funvipas (the pastoral action team of the Diocese of San Vicente del Caguán) in the Colombian Amazon.

An experienced youth worker, Saavedra trains and supports parish groups still feeling the effects of Colombia’s 50-year-long conflict in areas. She has witnessed the deforestation in the Amazon to make room for cattle, saying, “I dream that our land, our Amazon, will not disappear. I dream that we continue to take care of it, defend it and love it.”

Robert Bilott, a US lawyer specialising in environmental protection, will tell his story. Six years ago he received the Right Livelihood Award for his decades of work on behalf of people injured by chemical contamination.

His book, Exposure: Poisoned Water, Corporate Greed, and One Lawyer’s Twenty-Year Battle Against DuPont, was turned into the 2019 motion picture, Dark Waters, starring Mark Ruffalo.  

One Hope Project is leading the worship and song at Flame 2023. There will also be musical performances from Guvna B, Faith Child and Adeniké.

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