WYD: The streets of Lisbon became the streets of the world!

Our correspondent in Lisbon, Francesca Merlo, looks back over the past days of World Youth Day 2023 and to the promise of new meetings to come.

By Francesca Merlo - Lisbon, Portugal

A chapter has come to an end with the conclusion of World Youth Day, but the young pilgrims who spent the last six days here in Lisbon go home with plenty of material with which to continue writing and shaping their stories. They set off with a renewed sense of hope, strengthened faith and memories that are forever.

Endings are always sad, but all good things must come to an end, and WYD2023 really was “good”... to say the least. There were never really any doubts about that. Ever since the storming of the streets of Lisbon on the first day of August, there has never been a dull moment. The pilgrims tested the waters with the first large-scale event when they welcomed Pope Francis in the Edward VII Park on Thursday, and it was only a crescendo from there.

Love and hope

Love and hope were at the centre of Pope Francis’ messages in these days. He invited the young pilgrims to love one another, to help each other when they fall, to never stop getting back up and to “ride the wave” of life, reminding us all that there is a place in the Church for every single one of us. “Everyone, everyone, everyone” he made the 800,00 pilgrims repeat during the Way of the Cross on Friday afternoon. This comforting statement came at a time in which different worlds were meeting. Many of those attending WYD are sheltered from the brutal realities of war, poverty, hunger, climate disasters and violence in all its forms. Others, however, face destructive realities every day. In Lisbon, these two worlds met, intertwined, and became one. What an important lesson to learn at a young age: to meet and grow fond of someone who at first glance seems so different to you - looking, dressing, speaking, eating and thinking in a different manner. These new friendships helped many young pilgrims realise that amongst all these differences there really is no difference after all.

The streets of the world

So, Pope Francis brought unity to the streets of Lisbon when the streets of Lisbon were the streets of the world. To have 800,000 young people sit in silence, shedding tears, expressing that feeling of “he’s really speaking directly to me”, in such a crowd… that’s quite something. They rejoiced in every second of Pope Francis’ presence. They woke up early on Sunday morning – the final morning - and they sat, patiently, waiting, for him to arrive for the final mass. On that last final morning, he, - just like the pilgrims - must have been tired, but he was happy, visibly so, just as he has been on every occasion and every meeting. It really did seem that there was no other place he would rather have been, and the young people felt that, they felt it to the core, and that is the biggest demonstration of love.

An invitation

Although this chapter has ended, it has ended with an invitation, an invitation to two places for two events… the Jubilee year 2025 in Rome and World Youth Day in Seoul, South Korea, in 2027. These days are proof that even though some events are closer, and others further, there is always something to look forward to… and more than a glimmer of hope.

Thank you for reading our article. You can keep up-to-date by subscribing to our daily newsletter. Just click here

06 August 2023, 21:00