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NYC event to ask: What can reawaken our humanity? (Photos)

Attendees participate in the New York Encounter

Courtesy of the New York Encounter

John Touhey - published on 02/15/24

The New York Encounter, a free 3-day event now in its 15th year, draws Catholics and seekers who ask the big questions that are too often ignored.

This weekend, February 16-18, thousands of Catholics and seekers from across the US and the globe will gather in the heart of New York City for three days of discussion panels, exhibits, and artistic performances. They will be participating in an event where they are invited to ask an unusual question: “What can reawaken our humanity?”

The New York Encounter began 15 years ago among a small group of friends who were interested in learning what faith had to do with everyday life. Having participated in past Encounters, I can say that they event has grown considerably in size over the years. Despite the large crowds that now attend the annual gathering, it remains foremost a place of personal encounters. Participants, attendees, and volunteers mingle freely and often discuss the biggest questions of life onstage or over a cup of espresso.

Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa addresses the 2023 New York Encounter
Then-Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa addresses the 2023 New York Encounter

How a theme is born

Each New York Encounter has a theme that the organizers develop through a discussion about the current state of the world, along with the problems and questions that people are dealing with at their jobs, in their homes, on social media, etc.

The theme of the 2024 New York Encounter is “Tearing Open the Sleeping Soul.” That rather strange phrase comes from St. Gregory the Great (540–604). It expresses the fact that many people, overwhelmed by the current state of the world, are experiencing fatigue and a general malaise. Yet amid divisions, conflicts, and confusion, the Encounter’s organizers find reasons to hope, as this year’s theme states:

We feel disappointed because to be born comes with a promise. We are afraid because we have something to lose. We feel suffocated because we are made to be free and to affirm what is true. And we feel lost because we are made for a purpose.

Kids get creative at the New York Encounter's Infinity Lab
Kids get creative at the New York Encounter’s Infinity Lab

War, AI, and the power of language

Panels will address the difficult road to peace in the war between Israel and Hamas, the challenges presented by AI, the incredible power of human language, and a dozen other fascinating topics. Among the luminaries scheduled to appear are 2011 Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakkol Karman, Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem (who will address the NYE via a pre-recorded video), poet Christian Wyman, and classical pianist Kuok-Wai Lio.

Exhibits will look at the lives of songwriter Leonard Cohen and philosopher Simone Weil. There will also be concerts, creative spaces for children, book tables, and on-site dining. All events are free and open to the public. Many panels will also be livestreamed.

For more information, visit the New York Encounter website.

And to get an inside look at the New York Encounter, view the PHOTO GALLERY below.

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