MUMBAI, India – This year’s Asian Youth Day won’t happen, after complications kept India from hosting the event.

Bishop Henry D’Souza of Bellary, a member the youth commission of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India (CCBI), told Crux he was “sorry” about the turn of events.

Instead of transferring the event to another country, young people have been invited to participate in the jubilee celebrations of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC).

Father Chetan Machado, the Executive Secretary the CCBI’s youth commission, said that no diocese had come forward to host the event, but added that the FABC had asked for the postponement of ecclesial events to focus on the jubilee.

“However, we haven’t postponed it. We’re just not hosting it,” the priest told Crux.

The CCBI – which is for Latin Rite dioceses in India – didn’t have primary responsibility for arranging the Asian Youth Day; that fell to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), which includes bishops from the Latin and Eastern Rites.

The CBCI announced in January that India wouldn’t be able to host the event, saying “the present scenario does not allow us to hold the program.”

“We had hoped that there would be a change of government in 2019, but that did not happen, and the present situation does not look good either,” Bishop Nazarene Soosai of Kottar, head of the CBCI’s youth commission, told UCAN on Jan. 6.

Kottar was referring to India’s general election, in which the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party won re-election by a huge margin.

The BJP government has promoted a Hindu first policy, and religious minorities – especially Christians and Muslims – have complained about increased harassment and discrimination under the regime.

Many Church leaders blamed the government for scuttling a proposed visit by Pope Francis in 2017, and there were concerns that the government would put up obstacles to hosting a major regional Catholic event, especially when it came to issuing visas for visitors from other countries.

Asian Youth Day has become a major event for the Church on the continent, which despite its huge population, is the world’s region with the smallest percentage of Christians.

The event’s profile was raised in 2014, when Pope Francis visited the sixth Asian Youth Day in South Korea. During the seventh AYD in 2017 – taking place in Muslim-majority Indonesia – expectations were high when India was named as the host for the 2020 edition.

However, not only was the political situation in India unfavorable to hosting the event, but the expenses associated with a large international gathering were too steep for the country’s relatively poor dioceses.

Now that the 2020 AYD has officially been cancelled, the FABC says the next edition will be announced during their jubilee celebrations.

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