World Youth Day Overview

Tuesday, January 07 2003

The following overview has been prepared at the request of the Board of Directors of the corporation Catholic World Youth Day 2002 Council. It is intended to help explain the $38 million deficit resulting from World Youth Day 2002, and also to assist pastors and faithful in diocesan fundraising endeavours, following the apportionment of the deficit among all the episcopal corporations of Canada. As noted at the end of this overview, an audited financial statement on the event will be released to the public in the first part of 2003.

Historical background

The World Youth Day (WYD) 2002 story began at the October 1998 Plenary Assembly of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) held in Niagara Falls. Following a study commissioned by the 1997 Plenary Assembly, the Bishops of Canada in 1998 by an almost unanimous vote (with one abstention) agreed in principle that a request be made to the Holy See to hold WYD 2002 in Canada. The CCCB Permanent Council in November 1998 reviewed the matter and directed that a detailed consultation of all Canadian diocesan bishops be undertaken. At the same time, it appointed the four members of the Episcopal Committee to oversee the project. These were Most Reverend Anthony Meagher, then Auxiliary Bishop of Toronto and now Archbishop of Kingston; Thomas Collins, Archbishop of Edmonton; François Lapierre, P.M.É, Bishop of Saint-Hyacinthe; and James Wingle, then Bishop of Yarmouth and now Bishop of St. Catharines. The CCCB General Secretary, Msgr. Peter Schonenbach, was designated to staff the WYD Episcopal Committee, with the Permanent Council also deciding to have Toronto as the WYD venue.

Upon favourable results from the consultation of Canadian diocesan bishops early in the new year, the request was sent to Rome on 26 February 1999. Steps were then taken to set up an incorporated body to be responsible for WYD 2002, with the letters patent granted on 27 May 1999. This present overview has been commissioned by the Board of Directors of the WYD corporation which includes the WYD Episcopal Committee.

Father Thomas Rosica, C.S.B., was initially hired by the CCCB on 1 September 1999 and became an employee of the WYD corporation on 1 January 2001. His mandate was to prepare all aspects of the WYD enterprise and to execute the project. He began by reviewing the experiences of past World Youth Days and establishing the necessary networks both in Canada and internationally. At the same time, he began recruiting a core team that would become the heart of the organization. The majority were young executives who put their careers on hold to work on the WYD project. This team was sent to assist in World Youth Day 2000 in Rome through a month-long in-service with the Italian organizers. Father Rosica also began liaison with the Pontifical Council for the Laity, the department of the Holy See that is responsible for World Youth Days. During all this time, the WYD Episcopal Committee kept the Permanent Council informed of developments.

Once the Pope announced in August 2000 that WYD 2002 would be in Canada, the official countdown for the event began.

The WYD Episcopal Committee thus became the WYD 2002 Organizing Committee, meeting every two weeks, mainly by conference call. All financial decisions were reported to this Committee, and all major expenditures as well as hiring required its approval. To assist in managing this major financial undertaking, a finance and audit committee was also established in June 2001. Its members are Holger Kluge, past vice-president of the Bank of Commerce; Bill Broadhurst, then Chancellor for Temporal Affairs with the Archdiocese of Toronto; Tim Galvin, a public accountant from Hamilton; Sister Jean Gove, C.S.J., a financial administrator; and Jean Roy, CCCB Chief of Administration.

Financial background

From September 2000 to January 2001, the Toronto WYD office received 900,000 requests for information. These requests along with information from Episcopal Conferences around the world led in early 2001 to the estimate that one could expect 750,000 WYD pilgrims, including 200,000 from Canada. The WYD budget at that moment was nearly $340 million, with projections of a possible surplus of $10 million. However, given the effect of 11 September 2001, the subsequent bankruptcies of several major airlines, the economic collapse of several Latin American countries, and the decision to have the Pope visit Guatemala and Mexico, as well as some other factors – including the difficulties arising from holding the event in July rather than the customary August, because of the availability of Exhibition Place in Toronto – all meant sharp reductions in the projected registration figures: first to 450,000, and then to 350,000, including 100,000 from Canada. Of the 350,000, it was projected that 250,000 would register for the full-week package, 60,000 for the weekend and 40,000 would pay for a day pass at the gate, with large numbers also expected to participate in the Way of the Cross and the closing Mass with the Pope. Because of the reduced estimates in registrations and a subsequent cost-cutting exercise by all the WYD corporate departments, the budget was radically downsized to $134 million with a deficit of $4.5 million. This in turn was followed by a budget that was further reduced to $80 million as of 1 April 2002 on, following the recommendation of the WYD finance and audit committee.

In May 2002, the point of no return was reached for finalizing contracts for the major facilities, at the same time that consultations with various Episcopal Conferences around the world indicated the reduced projections for the number of pilgrims remained valid. Had a decision been made then to cancel the whole event, it would have meant at that point a debt in excess of $10 million. While all contracts relating to variable services such as transportation, food and billeting provided protection in case of lower registration, other costs for facilities, sanitation and security were fixed. Then, in the weeks just before the event, two other difficulties arose: the sex abuse scandal in the USA and the garbage strike in Toronto.

In the end, paid registrations for WYD 2002 totalled 187,000, of which 26,000 were for weekend packages. The total Canadian registration was 49,000, with USA registrations at 51,000.

In itself, WYD was a great pastoral success. Estimated attendance for the Way of the Cross was 500,000; for the Saturday Vigil, 600,000; for the closing Mass, 850,000. There were also estimates by CBC of one billion people throughout the world who participated in WYD 2002 by television. The discrepancy between the number of those who actually attended compared with those who had registered can only be explained by the overwhelming crowds that defied the gate registration process. As well, the weather on Sunday morning was severe. Hopes for on-site contributions were overestimated, even though $500,000 was collected. Corporate gifts were also much lower than expected, as were returns from merchandizing contracts. It should be added that the media campaign since the event has raised $416,243.17 as of mid November. In addition, sales of furniture, computers and office supplies have raised $212,060.

In sum, WYD 2002 was a world-class event, organized during an historical period of upheaval in a vast country that geographically spans a continent and has an international stature well beyond its low population. With this in mind, it is good to hear the comment of John McGrath, Chancellor for Temporal Affairs with the Archdiocese of Toronto:

The event was well managed and costs were controlled. Above all, what is most important in all this is the huge number of those who participated and were deeply affected by the presence of the Holy Father, the crowds of pilgrims and the hospitality of our parishes. This exceeded all our expectations. (From a letter to the pastors of the Archdiocese of Toronto, dated 15 October 2002)

The accounting firm of Ernst & Young is at work auditing the books, and an audited financial statement will be made public early in 2003.

Msgr. Peter Schonenbach, P.H.
Board of Directors
Catholic World Youth Day 2002 Council, Inc.