World Youth Day: Papal Visit to Portugal

Source: FSSPX News

On August 1, 2023, the day of the opening Mass of World Youth Day (WYD) at Lisbon, the organizers published the latest numbers: 354,000 registered pilgrims and close to a million people expected for the evening vigil of August 5 and the closing Mass of August 6 at Parque Tejo in the Portuguese capital. There were 688 bishops, 30 of whom were cardinals.

There were 25,000 people registered to volunteer, principally from Portugal, Spain, France, Brazil, and Colombia. The WYD of Lisbon counted 5,000 professionals of authorized media outlets. And 77 journalists authorized by the Holy See made the trip with Pope Francis, from the plane from Rome to Lisbon on August 2, until his return to Rome on Sunday, August 6. In the spirit of the encyclical Laudato si’, 17,980 trees were planted.

Pope Francis arrived on August 2. He gave his first address before the Portuguese authorities, delighting in the presence of the youth of the whole world in Lisbon, the youth who “are taking to the streets, not to cry out in anger but to share the hope of the Gospel, the hope of life.”

Toward a Europe Without Peace

As he did during his trip to Budapest last April, the Pope issued a call for Europe to find a prospect of peace for Ukraine: “Where are you sailing [Europe], if you are not showing the world paths of peace, creative ways for bringing an end to the war in Ukraine and to the many other conflicts causing so much bloodshed?”

While Vatican diplomacy is today one of the few to search for paths of mediation, the supreme pontiff lamented the recourse to weapons, “which do not represent investments for the future.” Pope Francis delivered his “dream of a Europe, the heart of the West, which employs its immense talents to settling conflicts and lighting lamps of hope.”

It’s significant to recall that it was in the same Portuguese capital in 2007 that the Treaty of Lisbon (a reform of the European Union) was signed, whose text “affirmed that ‘the Union’s aim is to promote peace, its values and the well-being of its peoples.’ (Treaty of Lisbon, Amending the Treaty on European Union and the Treaty Establishing the European Community, art. 2:1).”

The Holy Father denounced “easy access to death” in Europe and the West: “Where are you sailing, Europe and the West, with the discarding of the elderly, walls of barbed wire, massive numbers of deaths at sea and empty cradles?” By mentioning “many advanced laws concerning euthanasia”—Portugal voted last May a law decriminalizing euthanasia—he elicited a burst of applause in the crowd. He was also saddened by the fall in birth rates in Europe.

“[P]rogress seems to be measured by developments in technology and personal comfort, whereas the future calls for reversing the fall in the birth rate and the weakening of the will to live,” he said, pleading for “healthy politics” that “can be a generator of hope.” Francis praised the “lively sense of closeness and solidarity” very present in Portugal and recalled the importance “to think of borders as places of contact, not as boundaries that separate.”

Do Not Make the Church a Customs Station

In the evening of August 2, 2023, the Supreme Pontiff addressed the Portuguese clergy at the monastery of the Jerónimos. He strongly encouraged them not to give in to defeatism, to weariness. And for that, he insisted: “Only in adoration, only in the presence of the Lord, do we truly rediscover our taste and passion for evangelization.”

He did not neglect, however, to warn against “proselytism”: “So to be ‘fishers of men and women’ and to draw them out of the water means to help them to return to the place from which they have fallen, to save them from the evil that threatens to overwhelm them, to revive them from every form of death. But to do this without proselytism, always with love. One of the signs of certain ecclesial movements that are in trouble is proselytism. When an ecclesial movement or a diocese, a bishop, a priest, a nun or a lay person engages in proselytism, that is not Christian. It is Christian to invite, to welcome, to help, but without proselytism.”

And he concluded: “Dear brothers and sisters: to all of you, laity, religious, priests and bishops, to one and all I say, do not be afraid, let down the nets. Do not go about hurling accusations—telling people, ‘this is a sin’ or ‘this is not a sin.’ Let everyone come, we can talk later, but first they should hear the invitation of Jesus; repentance comes later, closeness to Jesus comes later. Please, do not turn the Church into a customs house: there the righteous, peoples whose lives are in order, those properly married, can enter, while everyone else remains outside. No. That is not the Church. Righteous and sinners, good and bad: everyone, everyone, everyone. And then, may the Lord help us to straighten things out… everyone!”

Recognizing the Climate Crisis

On the second day of his trip, Pope Francis visited the Palma de Cima campus, where he was welcomed by 6,500 young college students of the Universidade Católica Portugesa [Catholic University of Portugal]. He emphasized “the dramatic and urgent need to care for our common home.” To do this, “mere ‘palliative’ measures or timid and ambiguous compromises” are not enough, he insisted, pleading for “a real change of heart and of the anthropological approaches undergirding economic and political life.”

Being the author of the encyclical Laudato si’, he insisted “that we need an integral ecology, attentive to the sufferings both of the planet and the poor. We need to align the tragedy of desertification with that of refugees, the issue of increased migration with that of a declining birth rate, and to see the material dimension of life within the greater purview of the spiritual. Instead of polarized approaches, we need a unified vision, a vision capable of embracing the whole.”

And he affirmed: “An academic degree should not be seen merely as a licence [sic] to pursue personal wellbeing, but as a mandate to work for a more just and inclusive society, a truly progressive society.”

God Loves Us

The welcome ceremony of 500,000 young people coming from all over the world, in the late afternoon of August 3, took place at Parque Eduardo VII in Lisbon. It was a time of festive prayer, punctuated by choreography. Pope Francis gave a speech in Spanish, from an enormous stage covered in blue.

Largely improvising, he repeated time and again that “God loves us as we are, not how we want to be or how society wants us to be.” He was met with ovations at the repetition: “There is room for everyone! All together now, everyone, repeat with me in your own language: Everyone, everyone, everyone.”

The Holy Father also warned the youth against “the illusions of the virtual world,” where “wolves” prowl who “hide behind smiles of false goodness, saying that they know you, though they do not love you.”  He exhorts the younger generations not to let themselves be “deceived” by realities which “promise happiness” and which are later revealed to be “superfluous things that we don’t need and that leave us empty inside.” “Jesus is not like that,” he insists. “He trusts you, each of you, each of us, because each of us matters to him, each one of you matters to him.”

At the close of his speech, he emphasized that “each of us transmits the love of Jesus” and recalled that “God is a Father and a Father who loves us.” Also, he said to the young people present: “Don’t be afraid, take heart, move forward, knowing that all of us are ‘mortgaged’ by the love God has for us.”

Joy is Missionary

During the vigil with young people at Parque Tejo on August 5, Pope Francis urged the youth “who have come to meet others, to find Christ’s message, to find life’s beautiful meaning” that “it is for sharing with others, because joy is missionary!” He encourages them not to “remain fallen,” to get up from their failures and to “walk with a goal in mind.” “Nothing is free in life, everything has to be paid for,” he concluded. “Only one thing is free: the love of Jesus!” 

The first part of the rhythmic and always festive vigil was animated by 200 choir members, an orchestra and a choreographed ensemble composed of young people from 21 different nationalities. After the Pope’s sermon, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament followed. 

On the return flight the Pope made a clarification in response to a question on his silence in regard to the war: “I prayed. I prayed to Our Lady and I prayed for peace. I prayed, but without fanfare. And we continually have to repeat this prayer for peace. In the First World War, she asked for this. And this time I asked that of Our Lady. I didn’t do so with fanfare.” 

On the same first Saturday of the month of August, the Supreme Pontiff privately met with Portuguese Jesuits. This interview was published by La Civiltà Cattolica on August 28. He encouraged everyone to ask questions: “Ask me questions! Ask whatever you want. Do not be afraid to be imprudent in your questions. If nothing else, I will tell you what is on my mind! Really, let’s have a fraternal and open dialogue.” 

Shine, Listen, and Be Not Afraid

In the presence of 1.5 million faithful and thousands of priests gathered at Parque Tejo on Sunday, August 6, during the closing Mass of WYD, Pope Francis again urged the youth not to be afraid.

He gave them three pieces of advice: “What will we take back with us as we resume our daily lives? I would like to answer this question with three verbs, drawing from the Gospel we have heard: to shine, to listen, and to be unafraid.” In this way he asks them “to shine” with the light of Christ: “To love like Jesus: that is what makes us shine, makes us do works of love.”

Then, the Pope insisted on the need to listen to Jesus, to the reading of the Gospel: “To listen to Jesus, that is life’s secret.” Lastly, he insisted on being unafraid: “These were the last words spoken by Jesus to the disciples at the moment of the Transfiguration: ‘Do not be afraid!’ (Mt. 17:7).”