01 August 2023, The Tablet

Youth groups report on ‘energy’ at World Youth Day

Youth groups report on ‘energy’ at World Youth Day

Participants at World Youth Day 2023 in in Lisbon, Portugal.
José Ferreira/JMJ Lisboa 2023 via CNA

The East Anglia youth group in Portugal has described “amazing” experiences in the lead up to Pope Francis joining World Youth Day on Wednesday. These included a day in Ponte de Lima, the oldest large town in Portugal, to join with 5,000 other World Youth Day pilgrims being hosted by the Viana de Castelo diocese. They joined a huge Mass in a large exhibition hall, along with pilgrims from France, Spain, Croatia, Venezuela and Argentina, all waving flags. “There was a real energy in the hall from the start and it was incredible to know that this is just a fraction of what is to come in Lisbon,” said one of the young people.

The group is carrying a statue of Our Lady of Walsingham around with them, which they say “fits particularly well with the current theme for World Youth Day which is, Mary arose and went with haste”.

It went with them to the Fatima shrine, north of Lisbon. In Lisbon they participated in group activities at a local park with other nationalities, discussed writings of Pope Francis and social and ecological issues that Church communities and the world faces. There was also time for traditional dancing and craft workshops. “The lady running the workshop on flower crafts made out of paper, very kindly gave us one to keep with the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham. Many people asked questions about the statue.”


“We are being hosted by a number of volunteer families, and my two companions and I have been blessed with some of the kindest people you could hope for. My first experience of Portuguese home cooking sets a high bar; possibly the best deployment of cod and potatoes I have experienced, which is really saying something if you think about it.”

Read our World Youth Day diary by Hugo, a seminarian from the Plymouth diocese.

Fr Dominic Howarth reported that the Brentwood Catholic Youth Service was greeted warmly by musicians at their accommodation “who led us in songs which inspired dance and participation by everyone”.  Distinctive in their light blue shirts, they enjoyed local food, hospitality and the international pilgrim encounter. They joined a Mass for 20,000 pilgrims staying in Porto, where the local archbishop said: “Dare to dream, as Mary dared to dream” – with joy and with hope. Fr Dominic said, “The experience has been full of such depth and joy, so kind a welcome and so graced a time; the young pilgrims already have phones full of photos that each resonate with memories made and faith deepened.”

The Diocese of Galloway youth ministry visited Fatima last Sunday and handed out Scottish themed gifts to other groups. Youth groups from Leeds, Shrewsbury and Westminster dioceses were among those who arrived in Lisbon on Monday. Bishop Patrick McKinney of Nottingham accompanied young adults from his diocese. Caritas Youth is running a stall throughout the week in central Lisbon. All have received World Youth Day bags, which include a World Youth Day top, bottle, bucket hat and a rosary. 

The UK groups have joined around 400,000 young people from more than 200 countries registered for World Youth Day. More than 700 bishops and 20 cardinals will take part.

Meanwhile, CNA reported that according to an international survey, 96 per cent of young people over the age of 18 who are attending World Youth Day think these gatherings contribute a lot or quite a bit “to spreading faith in Jesus Christ”.

To the same extent, the participants think that the different WYDs help  “reinforce the commitment of young people” and “make the Church’s message resound throughout the world”.

Among the motivations for attending the international meeting with the pope is “encountering Jesus Christ” followed by “living new experiences”. For 89 per cent it’s a decisive factor to help “spread the message of Jesus Christ” and “to be at an event with Pope Francis”.

To a lesser extent, young people are coming to Lisbon to get to know different cultures, new people, be with like-minded people, or establish a dialogue with young people of different religions.

For the most part, WYD pilgrims consider that their Christian faith is a positive factor for maturing and being a better person, building a better world, showing solidarity, understanding others, and living a happy life.


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