After a year’s postponement because of the Covid-19 pandemic, World Youth Day (WYD) 2023 formally begins in Lisbon, Portugal this Tuesday, August 1, Emancipation Day, and ends next Sunday, the Feast of the Transfiguration.
This triennial gathering of Catholic youth has been held in other European nations: twice in Spain, 1989 and 2011; Poland, 1991 and 2016; Italy, 1986 and 2000; France 1997; and Germany 2005.
North America hosted two editions: USA 1993 and Canada 2002, while the South American WYDs were Argentina 1987 and Brazil 2013. The Philippines hosted in 1995, and Australia in 2008. Panama has been the only Central American host country, in 2019. Lisbon then is the 16th edition over the last 37 years.
Such a monumental worldwide event like this, not unexpectedly, has had statisticians crunching the numbers. Here are just a few as at the end of June, according to Catholic News Agency.
Through the parishes in the host dioceses (which correspond to the capital region, Lisbon, and the neighbouring regions of Santarém and Setúbal), 7,138 families have registered and are available to welcome young pilgrims in their homes, and more than 470,000 other places to stay overnight have been identified like schools and sports clubs.
Ninety per cent of those fully registered (289,000 pilgrims) have requested meals. The JMJ Lisbon 2023 Foundation already has contracted with thousands of participating restaurants and other establishments to provide almost three million lunches and dinners.
There will be more than 22,282 volunteers and of these, 500 are doctors, nurses, or students completing their degree in the health field.
Close to 700 bishops and 30 cardinals have registered to attend. The countries sending the most prelates are Italy (113), Spain (77), the United States (76), France (75), and Portugal (45). Ten thousand vestments are being made.
Thousands of priests have already volunteered to be in ‘Reconciliation Park’, a place where 150 confessionals will be set up between August 1–4. Confessions will be offered in the five official languages: Portuguese, English, French, Spanish, and Italian.
Portugal’s National Association of Protein Producers, Oilseeds and Cereals have donated two tons of Portuguese wheat for the manufacture of Communion hosts, which are being produced by the Clarisse Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Monastery in Lisbon.
Pope Francis will be presiding over his fourth WYD, having previously done so in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2013; Krakow, Poland, in 2016; and Panama City, Panama, in 2019.
For this year’s WYD’s motto, Pope Francis has chosen a passage from Luke’s Gospel: “Mary arose and went with haste” (Lk 1:39).
Over the three decades, this Archdiocese has often sent a contingent and this year is no different. Many of the local pilgrims who have experienced a WYD describe it as enriching and faith-building, a celebration of the Catholic faith alongside peers from around the world.
Many return renewed and re-energised to persevere in practising their Catholic faith, becoming good soil, as the recent Gospel of the Parable of the Sower states. The other side is of course that there are many who return ready for mission, but become lost along the way.
We know it can never be about the numbers as God calls us to His mission by name, however, the adult Church needs to offer encouragement, support and guidance for the young T&T Church.
Based on the turnout and response at the WYD Village on July 22 at Holy Faith Convent, Couva, our youth are hungry to know more about Christ and His Church.
In preparation for this WYD pilgrimage, the Office of Youth Ministry prepared a prayer for the youth of the Archdiocese. It is a prayer that should be offered not only during these next few days for the success of WYD Lisbon 2023, but every day of their lives.
We offer to you, loving God, the gifts and needs of youth.
Bless them with your guiding grace as they face the challenges and opportunities in their lives.
Touch their hearts with the gentleness of your love, that they may know they are valued and valuable beings.
Send your spirit of hope to their lives, that they may believe in themselves and know they are needed in this world.
Grace them with the gift of joy that they may celebrate life through laughter and tear alike.
Guide us, as we continue to grow in appreciation of the many gifts of young people, in the ministry of opportunities, we offer to them; in the journey of faith, we walk with them; in our shared mission as a community called to discipleship in the world. Amen.
Editor’s Note: Renee Smith, Communications Officer for Catholic Media Services is representing The Catholic News at WYD 2023.