“Grateful for the many experiences”

Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck © Harald Oppitz (KNA)

The World Youth Day in Panama is history. Meanwhile, the pilgrims and many young people made their way home. Among them is the bishop of Essen, Franz-Josef Overbeck. In his luggage he has a positive conclusion of the youth meeting.

Interviewer: What do you take home with you? What is the most beautiful memory of these past days here at World Youth Day??

Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck (Bishop of Essen and Chairman of the Episcopal Commission Adveniat): The most beautiful memory of these past days is related to the kindness of the hosts. The Panamanians are very hospitable, very attentive, and they really try to read our wishes from our eyes. They associate it with a very good mood, which is simply light, and that goes with the sun here, that goes with the sea. That fits everywhere where many young people are together.

Interviewer: What are the central messages with the young people?? What do you feel moves them? What is it that moves them at the moment?

Overbeck: It moves them on the one hand – if they come from Germany – how to live the faith in such a way that it has a real relevance in everyday life. Secondly, they are moved by how they can find other young people who share the same interests. And I also notice: Many are simply fascinated by the movement of the many young people from Latin America and here from Central America, who are there and give this World Youth Day their own character.

Interviewer: What do you, or the young people, learn from meeting the people here, especially from Central America?? Is it a World Youth Day for Central Americans? What can we learn from encounters with these people, who come from a completely different world than we do in Germany?

Overbeck: The immediacy of faith is something that shapes these young people very much and therefore they also have a natural relationship with God, with prayer and with the church. And at the same time, there is a society here – especially those living on the margins – that has to deal very much with poverty, with ies of violence and other challenges. And this is not only experienced by Central Americans, but by many. So also our groups that have come here now.

Interviewer: Do you also learn something like gratitude for how good we have it in Germany??

Overbeck: The young people I spoke to yesterday said this quite often: We can be grateful for how we live and where we live – in the face of these challenges. Further, they have emphasized that they will also do everything to make sure that more people understand this. Since I am on the road a lot, I often feel that I am grateful in many ways to live where I am allowed to live. I am also thankful for the many experiences and I see how many things become relative – but also how the world becomes much bigger.

Interviewer: What do you want the young people to take with them, apart from lots of selfies and a suitcase full of laundry??

Overbeck: A good experience of community in faith and at the same time the many good encounters with individuals. That is the important thing that has already happened here and that they have told me about. If these two perspectives still play a role in memory at home, then a lot has happened.

Interviewer: Would you also like to see more appointments? Yes, the membership figures in the churches in Germany are falling. Can something like World Youth Day give a push forward again?

Overbeck: Experience community. Events of this kind always, or often anyway, have a special significance for vocation stories when it comes to particular career paths in the church. But first it's about vocation to being a Christian. This is an importance that should not be underestimated. And when this is solidified, a lot has happened. If one or the other senses and sees something further for himself – all the better. But that belongs in the discernment of spirits and not in a hype like one you experience on such days.

The interview was conducted by Ina Rottscheidt.

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