| By Faith Catholic Staff

World Youth Day Events

Between 2-3 million people attended the 37th World Youth Day (WYD)in Lisbon, Portugal, from Aug. 1-6. Although temperatures soared throughout the week, nothing could stop this youthful celebration of faith. Pope Francis commented afterward on how well it was run: “Of the ones I have seen, this is the best prepared.”

Pope Francis spent most of the week in Lisbon and the surrounding region visiting with civil dignitaries, Church officials and World Youth Day participants, including a group of young people from Ukraine and a group of sex abuse survivors. On Saturday morning, he visited the shrine of Fatima.

Opening Mass

On Tuesday, Aug. 1, the Patriarch of Lisbon, Cardinal Manuel Clemente, greeted pilgrims at the opening Mass of WYD, reflecting on this year’s theme: “Mary arose and went with haste.” He compared the journey of the attendees to that of the Blessed Virgin’s – setting out on a difficult path and carrying Christ within their hearts. 

USA National Pilgrim Gathering

On Wed. Aug 2, Bishop Robert Barron was the main speaker at the National Pilgrim Gathering of attendees from the United States. Bishop Barron, of Winona-Rochester, Minnesota, and founder of Word on Fire ministry, addressed the crowd of approximately 10,000 young people by saying, “When you preach the real Christ, not a watered-down Christ, it lights a fire in people.” A Eucharistic procession and adoration followed the event.

Welcome Ceremony

More than 500,000 were present to greet Pope Francis on Aug. 3 when he joined WYD for the official welcoming ceremony. He told attendees that they are called by name, and called because they are loved. He said everyone is welcome in Christ’s Church. He continued: “You are not here by mistake … There is space for everyone, and when there isn’t, please, let’s work so that there is – also for who makes mistakes, for who falls, for who it is difficult.” 

The opening ceremony featured a choir, orchestra and a 50-person cast of young people from 21 different countries and various musicians to celebrate a truly Catholic faith, demonstrating the diversity and unity of the universal Church.

Messages were read from young people sharing personal challenges and asking the pope for advice. Francis invited young people to consider their struggles and imperfections and how God loves us with the limits and defects we have, encouraging them to turn to the Blessed Virgin because she is everyone’s mother, too.

Way of the Cross

On Friday, Aug. 4, about 800,000 pilgrims gathered for the Way of the Cross led by Pope Francis. At the beginning, he told the crowd, “Today you are going to walk with Jesus.”

Fifty young people carried a large cross as they performed a 90-minute choreography of the Way of the Cross. Each station focused on specific “fragilities” experienced by young people across the globe, such as loneliness, violence, and mental health issues.

The pope encouraged everyone to call to mind their anxieties and misfortunes, to not be afraid of them – rather, embrace their sufferings, just as Christ embraced the cross out of love. Pilgrims were reminded to unite their trials and sufferings with Christ because he is there to accompany us on the way to the cross.

Evening Vigil

Despite a spike in temperatures, Pope Francis led prayer at a Saturday evening vigil attended by around 800,000 pilgrims. In his remarks, he said: “I ask you, you who are here, who have come to meet, to seek the message of Christ, to seek a beautiful meaning in life: Will you keep this for yourselves, or will you bring it to others?” 

Missioning Mass

Pope Francis presided over the closing event of World Youth Day: the Missioning Mass attended by approximately 1.5 million people. The Mass was concelebrated by 700 bishops and 10,000 priests.

After the Gospel on the Transfiguration was read, Pope Francis echoed the words of the Apostles in the Gospel when he said, “It is good for us to be here.” 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.”

Did you know?

  • Nearly 30,000 international volunteers made the event run smoothly.
  • A new model of catechesis session called Rise Up was debuted at WYD that reflects on the prominent themes of Francis’ papacy: integral ecology, social friendship and mercy.
  • 150 plywood confessionals were built by inmates from Portuguese prisons in Forgiveness Park.
  • Did you know? 
  •  According to the USCCB,
    almost 29,000 young people 
    were in attendance from the
    U.S., as well as 60 bishops. 
  • The sacrament of reconciliation was administered in 50 different languages and sign languages on street corners and park benches throughout Lisbon.
  • French pilgrims brought
    the relics of St. Thérèse
    of Lisieux to WYD, allowing other pilgrims to pray
    with them.
  • WYD 2027 will be held in Seoul, South Korea – the first in Asia since WYD 1995 in Manila in the Philippines.

“Young people are the future. The idea is to accompany them. The problem is knowing how to accompany them.” 

-Pope Francis