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Check out WYD’s “City of Joy”

Pilgrims confess in an open confessionals area in Belem, Lisbon, during the World Youth Day


Isabella H. de Carvalho - published on 08/03/23

Confessions, vocations, memories of past Youth Days, inspiring testimonies ... this is the place to be in Lisbon.

If you take the train to the district of Belem in Lisbon this week, chances are you will meet crowds of pilgrims singing in their seats. When you arrive at the station, you will find the Tagus river on one side and what the World Youth Day organizers have called the “City of Joy “on the other. This space, open from August 1 to 4, is filled with opportunities for pilgrims to deepen their faith. 

The first thing you will see when you enter the City of Joy is the Reconciliation Park. This space is filled with 150 yellow and white confession booths (made by inmates). Priests from all over the world wait patiently as pilgrims form lines to be able to experience the sacrament of confession. Volunteers stand guard on the perimeter of the space, to make sure no pilgrims accidentally wander in.

A small Chapel hosts Eucharistic Adoration, where pilgrims can escape the bustle for a moment of intimacy with God. “It’s a really busy place, but I can find some quiet spaces here, which is what I like, so I am pleased,” said Ingrid, an 18-year-old pilgrim from Slovakia, who spent her free hour in the Chapel. “It’s beautiful when I can spend some quiet time with Jesus.” 

Portugal is preparing to welcome Pope Francis and around a million young pilgrims for the World Youth Day

Past the Chapel is the vocational fair, divided by streets named after past WYDs and filled with booths representing all Catholic realities: from the Dominicans, to the Franciscans, to youth movements of episcopal conferences, and even Vatican entities.

pilgrims can get to know different congregations and religious organizations at the Vocational Fair of the City of Joy

Sisters and priests give out bracelets and rosaries, as curious pilgrims stop by to ask questions. On a stage at the center of the fair, people share how they discovered their vocation. “My parents first wanted me to finish university, before joining religious life,” explained a young sister from the Institute of the Incarnate Word as she recounted her story. 

Lastly, there is a stage where various figures come and give the “Talks of Joy” on themes concerning life as a Catholic. These include things such as work-life balance, interreligious diversity, or discovering one’s vocation.

“I thought this talk was really useful, what really resonated with me was to be a Catholic first before you even talk about your profession,” said Yvonne, a 32-year-old from Singapore who works in business development, about a talk on the professional sphere.

For Amanda, a 28-year-old teacher from Malaysia, listening to the talk made her not feel alone and reminded her of the importance of having a community. 


ConfessionPope FrancisWorld Youth Day
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