The final weekend of World Youth Day is the peak of the event, as an estimated 1.5 million young people have poured into Lisbon. Many of them share the comfort they have felt during WYD, which has rekindled their commitment to the Catholic faith.
“Getting together with young Christians from all over the world is a real heart-warming experience, giving us renewed hope. You can see that humanity has many different melodies and colors, and that’s just too beautiful!” The enthusiasm of Joséphine, 24, from France, reflects the state of mind of many pilgrims at the end of a week marked by tears, laughter, joy, and multiple encounters with other young Catholics, some of whom feel lonely in their home parishes.
Toinon, 24, from a village in northern France, was re-energized by this adventure. “We sometimes feel alone in our countryside, but here we realize that there are lots of people like us, and that’s comforting! We’re here, we pray at the same time, we sing, and through it all there’s Jesus!” she marvels.
Federico, 32, came from Brescia, Italy, with 400 young people from the Salesian movement aged 16 to 26. He was particularly moved by Friday’s Way of the Cross. “It was very well organized, which enabled us to experience it in a very profound way. There were a lot of young people next to me with tears in their eyes. It was really touching and beautiful,” he said. While he acknowledged the inevitable tensions involved in organizing the group’s movements, he also emphasized the joy of “seeing the young people go home happy and singing every evening.”
From Hong Kong, Bosco, 18, was particularly touched by the opening Mass. “We were all together celebrating one Mass, which is really touching for me because it is hard to do that in Hong Kong or other countries like the UK, as there are not a lot of Catholics,” he explained.
Ingrid, from Guatemala, is taking part in her first WYD. “I’m very moved to be here, because I wasn’t able to go to the WYD in Panama, which was closer to my country. What touched me most was that the Pope celebrated the sacrament of Confession with a young person from my country: It’s a blessing for all of Guatemala!”
An “awesome” meeting between volunteers and the elderly
Victoire, 22, a volunteer from Marseille, was particularly touched by the opening ceremony as well: “Seeing the 180 flags moved me enormously. I was impressed by the international dimension,” she shared. She was happy that she got to share a room with girls from Latin America, which enabled her to have “beautiful, concrete exchanges.”
During the volunteers’ preparation week, Victoire said she really appreciated the missionary day when they visited a retirement home. “It was awesome; we had such a great time! The elderly were happy to see young people. Communication was difficult because of the language barrier, but with all the singing and the smiles, they had a lot of fun!” she said. She explained that each volunteer was then given a bracelet bearing the name of an elderly person for whom they were to pray during the WYD.
It’s not all perfect, admits Vianney, 18 from Versailles. Organizational hitches sometimes led to having too many volunteers at certain events. He nevertheless “enjoyed meeting foreigners, Spaniards, Portuguese, Panamanians… that was great!”
“God loves us with our faults”
Wayne, a 37-year-old Canadian of Haitian origin, and Sarah, 25, from Quebec, came with around 40 people from the Cathedral of Montreal. “I’d already been to Cologne in 2005 when I was 18, I was fresh!” laughed Wayne. “Here in Lisbon, I was better prepared mentally, and I’ve come full circle!” He was particularly impressed by “the Way of the Cross, which was very beautiful visually, with the acrobats,” and more generally by “the fraternity with young people from other countries.”
Sarah shares that she really liked the Pope’s words at the welcome ceremony, when “he said that God loves us with our faults, that God loves us with our miseries, and that the Church is for everyone. That’s the truth! God loves us just as we are.” The 25-year-old is studying theology at the Major Seminary of Montréal. “I study what I love, because I love the Virgin Mary, and I love Christ,” said Sarah with touching simplicity.
Coming from Canada, where the majority of the population does not identify itself with the Church, Sarah reflected the feelings of many other young people present in Lisbon. “It’s good to see that there are other Catholics, and that we’re not alone,” she highlights.