The Vatican

"WYD is an encounter with the living Christ through the Church," Pope says

Pope Francis resumed his Wednesday general audiences on August 9. The audience was held in the Paul VI Hall at 9:00 a.m., and the Pope focused his meditation on World Youth Day, which concluded on Sunday, August 6 in Lisbon.

Loreto Rios-August 9, 2023-Reading time: 4 minutes

The Pope at the final Mass of WYD ©CNS photo/Vatican Media

The Gospel chosen for this audience was that of the Visitation of Mary to her cousin Elizabeth, which is the central theme of the Gospel. 37th World Youth DayThis year's event was held in Lisbon from August 2 to 6.

The Pope's reflection focused entirely on this event, indicating at the beginning of his speech that "this WYD in Lisbon, which came after the pandemic, was felt by all as a gift from God that set the hearts and steps of young people in motion once again, so many young people from all parts of the world - so many!

WYD is a new beginning of pilgrimage

Francis recalled that the pandemic generated much isolation, which especially affected young people. "With this World Youth Day, God has given a 'push' in the opposite direction: it has marked a new beginning of the great pilgrimage of young people across the continents, in the name of Jesus Christ. And it is not by chance that it was in Lisbon, a city that overlooks the ocean, a city that symbolizes the great explorations by sea".

Mary, guide for young people

The Holy Father also wanted to underline the relationship that this WYD has kept with the Virgin Mary: "At the most critical moment for her, [Mary] goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth. The Gospel says: 'She got up and left in haste' (Lk 1:39). I like very much to invoke the Virgin Mary in this aspect: the Virgin 'in haste,' who always does things in haste, never makes us wait, because she is the mother of all.

Thus Mary still today, in the third millennium, guides the pilgrimage of young people in the footsteps of Jesus. As she did precisely one century ago in Portugal, in FatimaI was there when she spoke to three children, entrusting to them a message of faith and hope for the Church and for the world. For this reason, during WYD, I returned to Fatima, the place of the apparitions, and together with some sick young people, I prayed that God would heal the world of the sicknesses of the soul: pride, lies, enmity, violence. And we renewed our consecration, of Europe, of the world, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. I prayed for peace, because there are so many wars everywhere in the world, so many.

Encounter with Christ

On the other hand, the Pope spoke of the enthusiasm of the young people, of their good experiences in the parishes of the dioceses of Portugal and of the excellent welcome of the Portuguese families. Mentioning the most important events (the welcoming ceremony, the Vigil and the final Mass), the Pope recalled that these days "were not a vacation, a tourist trip, nor a spiritual event closed in itself; WYD is an encounter with the living Christ through the Church. Young people go to meet Christ. It is true that where there are young people there is joy.

Young people who have passed through Rome

Concluding his speech, the Pontiff pointed out that this wave of hope from WYD benefits both the participants and the dioceses that welcome them: "My visit to Portugal on the occasion of WYD benefited from its festive atmosphere, from the wave of young people who peacefully invaded the country and its beautiful capital. I thank God for this, thinking especially of the local Church which, in return for the great effort made in organizing and hosting the event, will receive new energy to continue on its journey, to cast its nets with apostolic passion.

The young people in Portugal are already a vital presence today, and now, after this 'transfusion' received by the Churches all over the world, they will be even more so. And so many young people, on their return, have passed through Rome, and there are even some here who have participated in this Day. After the applause of those present, the Pope commented that "where there are young people, there is noise. They know how to do it well.

WYD: an example of peace

The Holy Father also stressed that WYD is an example that countries can live together peacefully: "While in Ukraine and elsewhere in the world there is fighting, and while in certain hidden rooms war is being planned, WYD has shown everyone that another world is possible: a world of brothers and sisters, where the flags of all peoples fly together, side by side, without hatred, without fear, without closures, without weapons! The message of the young people has been clear: will the 'great ones of the earth' listen to it? It is a parable for our time, and still today Jesus says: 'He who has ears, let him hear! He who has eyes, let him see!'".

In conclusion, he thanked the President of Portugal, the bishops, volunteers (he highlighted the high number of volunteers: 25,000) and other people in charge of the organization of WYD. He also asked God's blessing, through the Virgin Mary, for all the young people and the people of Portugal, and prayed a Hail Mary with the assembly.

A summary of today's reflection was then read in several languages, and the Pope addressed a few words in Italian to the pilgrims from each country present in the hall. In the case of the Spanish-speaking pilgrims, the Pope greeted them in Spanish, saying: "I see Mexican, Colombian, Panamanian, Salvadoran flags...", which caused a standing ovation among those present.

The meeting ended with the recitation of the Our Father and the Pope's blessing to those present.

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