Pope Francis intends to visit Fatima as part of his trip to Lisbon for the next World Youth Day (August 1-6, 2023), Bishop José Ornelas Carvalho of Leiria-Fatima told I.MEDIA on the sidelines of the European Continental Synod Assembly. The synod meeting is currently taking place in Prague (Czech Republic) from February 5 to 12, 2023.
“Yes, the Pope says he will come to Fatima, he has constantly reconfirmed his availability and his willingness to come,” said Bishop Ornelas Carvalho. According to the Portuguese bishop, the Pope told the organizers of the event that “even if I come in a wheelchair, I am coming.”
Fatima is not far from Lisbon, adds Bishop Ornelas; however the journey needs to be adapted to the 86-year-old Pope who suffers from a knee injury. A helicopter trip could be possible as a way to cover the under 100 miles that separate Lisbon and Fatima, the Bishop said.
This would be Pope Francis’ second trip to the Portuguese Marian shrine since his election, as he visited it during an apostolic trip from May 12 to 13, 2017. On that trip, he canonized the two visionaries who died as children, making them the Church’s youngest non-martyr saints.
Starting up again
As for World Youth Day, preparations are continuing, notes Bishop José Ornelas Carvalho. “It had begun before the pandemic, then with the pandemic it was difficult. This interval was not good. But now the young people are starting up again,” he says.
The number of participants, however, remains uncertain. “No one knows how many young people will come” in the uncertain context of “the pandemic, the war, the economic capacity of families,” the bishop explains.
Already, there are around 450,000 people registered. “This is a good rate, but we don’t know how it will evolve. For example, we don’t know how many young Spaniards, who will be the most numerous, will arrive spontaneously, without organizations.”
The history of WYD
After initially being planned in 2022 but then being postponed for a year due to the pandemic, the WYD in Lisbon is now around the corner. It will be the 16th international WYD after the first edition in Rome in 1986, under John Paul II. World Youth Days are supposed to be celebrated every two or three years at the global level and annually at the diocesan level.