Under the hot Portuguese sun, Pope Francis concluded the Lisbon World Youth Day by encouraging young people “to shine, to listen, and to be unafraid” as they return home to their countries across the globe. An estimated 1.5 million people were at the Tagus Park, bordered by the river of the same name, and on the surrounding roads, to participate in the final mass of the Lisbon WYD. After the vigil the previous evening, many had slept in sleeping bags and mattresses under the stars, to wait for Mass with the Pope the following morning.
“We do not radiate light by putting ourselves in the spotlight, projecting a perfect image or appearing to be powerful and successful. No, we radiate light when we welcome Jesus into our hearts and learn to love as he does,” Pope Francis said in his homily. As he usually has during this WYD, Pope Francis largely improvised part of his address, but focused on telling the pilgrims to “listen” to Jesus by reading the Gospel. Echoing John Paul II’s appeal during the 2000 WYD in Rome, Pope Francis repeated “do not be afraid” over and over.
“The Church and the world need you, the young, as much as the earth needs rain,” Pope Francis said, encouraging the young people to fight for justice and peace and not give up on their dreams. The sea of people extending beyond the Tagus Park listened attentively as the Pope’s words resonated through the air.
Special moments that the pilgrims will take back home
“The part about rising up moved me. Faith is hard, but with God everything is possible and the Pope’s words said exactly that,” said Eugenia, a Portuguese mother who had her two-year-old daughter, Ana Beatriz, strapped firmly onto her back, dozing off after the intense night. “I hope my daughter comes to WYD in the future and that I can transmit what I have received to my children.”
For Paul, a French 23-year-old, this Mass was particularly important as he got to celebrate his First Communion. “I didn’t understand everything the Pope said, because I didn’t have a radio, but it was still super intense, super beautiful,” he said excitedly. Despite the technical difficulties, this special moment only increased his enthusiasm for the future: “I’ll definitely be back for WYD in Korea in 2027, and also for the Jubilee of the Young in 2025 in Rome.”
Francesco, 18, from Sardinia in Italy, came to WYD in honor of his late grandfather, who passed in 2022; he was touched by the “various emotions” he felt throughout his journey to Lisbon, which included a stop in Fatima that “impressed” him. “My grandfather wanted me to come to this WYD also to see the Pope. I was able to pray for my grandfather and go forward in our walks, even when it was difficult, thanks to him,” said the Sardinian, holding his flag proudly. “I was touched by the Pope’s words, even though he is an important person, he used simple words to communicate with everyone.”
The excitement of just being at WYD
“We were very tired, but this Mass was a gift, a great blessing for us, and we are filled with joy,” said Raphaella, a Filipino living in Abu Dhabi, who came with a group of 150 people from the Apostolic Vicariate of Northern Arabia. “Our presence here is a miracle!”
Malia, 22, from the Kingdom of Tonga in the Pacific, said the Mass and other spiritual celebrations she participated in during this WYD made her “feel differently” than how she is in her home country. “I am so grateful, so blessed, to have had this experience and to see Pope Francis. […] He came with his little truck and I got to witness him, his presence. That is very special for me because I don’t know when I will see him next,” she highlighted.
“Look to the future with hope”
As the pilgrims start on their routes home, the Pope’s appeal to not be afraid will continue to resonate in their minds as they look to the future. “It’s a very tiring journey, very challenging, even to come here for the final gathering: It’s a pilgrimage. The Lord really wanted to test our faith, to see what we’re capable of doing, to get us out of our comfort zone,” said
Jeanne-Claire, 25, who came from Cayenne, capital of French Guiana in South America.
“But it was a beautiful Mass, with a beautiful homily: The Lord calls us to look serenely to the future, and that’s what I’ve learned here, to look to the future with hope,” she adds.