World Youth Day 2023 – Lisbon, Portugal

The 37th World Youth Day Catholic festival in Lisbon, Portugal, 1–6 August 2023, got underway with Mass celebrated by Cardinal Manuele Clemente, Patriarch of Lisbon.

WelCom September 2023

‘Mary arose and went with haste’ (Luke 1:39) – theme for WYD 2023

The 37th World Youth Day Catholic festival in Lisbon, Portugal, 1–6 August 2023, got underway with Mass celebrated by Cardinal Manuele Clemente, Patriarch of Lisbon. The open-air Mass in Eduardo VII Park provided hundreds of thousands of young people from all over the world their first opportunity to share their faith journey. Pope Francis arrived in Portugal on 2 August to attend WYD for five-days. Thousands lined the streets to greet Pope Francis with a raucous welcome as he made his way to the WYD welcoming ceremony in Lisbon, on 3 August. 

Pope Francis waves as he arrives to lead the Way of the Cross during World Youth Day at Eduardo VII Park in Lisbon. Photo: Bob Roller/OSV News

‘Don’t be afraid to change the world’

An estimated 1.5 million young people gathered in Lisbon’s Tejo Park in temperatures reaching 40 degrees to celebrate the World Youth Day Vigil and Mass with Pope Francis.

At the huge gathering on 5–6 August, Pope Francis told the passionate young pilgrims not to let their ‘great dreams’ of changing the world be ‘stopped by fear’.

Speaking to the hushed crowd, he said: ‘Let’s all repeat this phrase in our hearts: “Don’t be afraid. Jesus knows the hearts of each one of you, the successes and the failures, he knows your hearts,’ Pope Francis said. ‘And today he tells you, here in Lisbon for this World Youth Day: “Don’t be afraid”. ’

Reflecting on the Gospel of the day, Pope Francis called on young people to shine, to listen, and to be unafraid.The Gospel reading recounted the event of the Transfiguration, where Jesus appeared to His three closest disciples with His face shining like the sun and His clothes gleaming white, precisely in order to prepare his disciples for the dark hours they would face at Gethsemane and Calvary.

‘We, too, need light, a burst of light that is hope to face so much darkness that assails us in life,’ the Pope said. That light, he explained, ‘is Jesus, because He is the light that does not go out, the light that shines even in the night.’ It is Jesus, he said, ‘that enlightens our eyes, enlightens our heart, enlightens our mind, enlightens our desire to do something in life, always with the light of the Lord.’

At the same time, he warned that ‘we do not become luminous when we focus the spotlight on ourselves.’ Instead, ‘We become luminous, we shine, when, welcoming Jesus, we learn to love like Him. To love like Jesus: that makes us luminous, that leads us to do works of love.’

Listen to Him

Continuing his reflection on the Transfiguration, Pope Francis noted the words of God the Father to the Apostles, commanding them to listen to His beloved Son. ‘It’s all here,’ the Pope said, ‘all that is to be done in life: Listen to Him. Listen to Jesus, every secret is there.’

He explained if someone is unsure about what God is saying to them, they can read the Gospels to hear what Jesus says and listen to what He says in their hearts. ‘For He has words of eternal life for us. He reveals that God is the Father, and He is love. He teaches us the path to love.’

Finally, the Holy Father reminded his youthful listeners of the last words of Jesus to his disciples during the Transfiguration: ‘Get up, and do not be afraid!’

The Pope acknowledged the fears of young people, who ‘have great dreams’ but fear they might not come true, who may be tempted by pessimism or discouragement, or who feel that their efforts are not enough. But he encouraged them, saying it is good for them to want to change the world, to fight for justice and peace. The world needs you, he said, ‘like the earth needs rain’.

He knows us

He assured them that Jesus Himself is looking out on them: ‘What is more, I tell you something very beautiful: It is no longer me, it is Jesus Himself who is looking at you, at this moment. He is looking at us. He knows you, He knows the heart of each one of you, He knows the life of each one of you. He knows your joys, He knows your sorrows, your successes, and your failures. He knows your hearts, and He says to you today, here, in Lisbon, at this World Youth Day, “Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid. Take heart, do not be afraid.”’ 

At the end of Mass, the Pope announced the next World Youth Day would take place in 2027 in Seoul. He also invited young people to travel to Rome for a youth celebration during the Holy Year 2025. 

Speaking after the Mass, the 86-year-old Francis urged the young people to take the fraternal experiences of the six-day jamboree back home and apply them to their daily lives.

‘Dear friends, allow me, this old man, to share with you young people a dream that I carry within me: it is the dream of peace, the dream of young people praying for peace, living in peace and building a peaceful future,’ Francis said.

‘As you return home, please continue to pray for peace. What is more, you are a sign of peace for the world, showing how different nationalities, languages and histories can unite instead of divide. You are the hope of a different world,’ he said.

Sources: Vatican News, CNA News

More than 100 young pilgrims from Aotearoa travelled to Portugal on a 21-day journey of a lifetime. The group included over 30 young travellers from the dioceses of Wellington and Palmerston North. Supported by the New Zealand Catholic Bishops’ Council for Young People, they visited spiritual sites and monasteries in France before arriving in Portugal for World Youth Day 2023.

Young people lead World Youth Day Wellington event

About 200 young people gathered at Bishop Viard College, Porirua, for the archdiocese’s World Youth Day event on 6 August. They came from parishes, colleges, and chaplaincies across Wellington to celebrate faith and reflect on Pope Francis’ WYD message.

Tuākana Youth Ministers – Nia Foliaki, Timothy Ale, Sofia Mendoza and Nick Meli – led the day’s events and Fr Alfred Tong celebrated Mass. Representatives from chaplaincies and communities spoke in their first language for the Readings and Prayers of the Faithful. The Samoan Chaplaincy Youth took on roles at Mass, including the Enthronement of the Bible. 

‘It was important for our WYD event to reflect the many communities in our archdiocese, and to connect to the celebrations in Portugal bringing people from all around the world together,’ Nia said.

Workshops explored WYD themes including the main session: ‘Mary Arose in Haste’ about navigating life and faith journeys as young people. Archbishop Paul Martin sm joined this session with his own story and concluded with a guided meditation prayer.

Artists and musicians Timothy Ale and Nick Meli created spaces for people to celebrate their faith in creative ways, with an art table for prayer intentions and other inspirations. They facilitated music performances by groups from St Pius X Titahi Bay, St Joseph’s Levin, St Patrick’s Wainuiomata, St Michael’s Taita, Holy Trinity Parish and Wellington South Parish.