The organising committee for World Youth Day 2023 in Lisbon has faced considerable public criticism over the cost of the stage for the final event, which will include a Mass presided over by the Pope for up to 1.5 million pilgrims.
The nine-metre-high stage and its covering will cost around €4.2 million and will have to accommodate 2,000 people at one time for the final Mass – half of them bishops.
The bill for the stage will be footed by city funds, but Lisbon mayor Carlos Moedas has said that the specifications for the infrastructure came from the Vatican. They include two lifts to reach the top and technical and support rooms on the inside.
Although the infrastructure is being prepared for World Youth Day (WYD), the goal is for the covering and a reduced version of the stage to remain in place for future large-scale events. The mayor argues that this justifies the expense, along with another €17 million to prepare the grounds around it, as an investment.
Organisers have also claimed that the whole event is expected to attract over €300 million, which would result in an overall profit for the city.
The Church-run WYD Foundation, which is overseeing preparations for the event, took time to respond to objections to the cost of the stage. It finally released a statement saying it has been working closely with city authorities on all stages of planning and execution.
The foundation said that critics should bear in mind that Portugal has never hosted an event of this magnitude.
“Work carried out on infrastructure projects has had to consider projections as to total participation in the events, as well as the technical specifications required to ensure the viability of locations, namely in terms of safety, accessibility and sustainability,” the statement says.
The foundation promises to publish details of all expenses as the date draws closer.
The next World Youth Day was originally set for 2022, but was postponed one year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Elections held in 2021 saw a change in the leadership of Lisbon City Hall, which may also have accounted for some delays, although both the city and the national government are fully committed to working with the Church on the event.