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World Youth Day Lisbon 2023 (WYD), according to its website, “is a gathering of young people from all over the world with the Pope. It is at the same time a pilgrimage, a celebration of youth, an expression of the universal church and a powerful moment of evangelization for the world of youth. It is an invitation to a generation determined to build a more just and united world. With a clearly Catholic identity, it is open to all, whether they are close to the Church or far from it. It is held annually at the diocesan level, and every two, three, or four years as an international meeting in a city chosen by the Pope. It brings together thousands of young people to celebrate faith and belonging to the Church. Since the first edition, held in Rome in 1986, WYD has proven to be a laboratory of faith, a place of birth of vocations to marriage and consecrated life, as well as an instrument of evangelization and transformation of the Church.” 

WYD Lisbon begins on Tuesday, 1 August and concludes with Mass with the Holy Father on Sunday, 6 August. Different religious, spiritual, cultural, artistic, and athletic events are conducted throughout the week to permit the participants acclimation, socialization, inspiration, entertainment, and opportunities for praise and worship. These events highlight the host region. This year will feature the culture of Portugal, its history, its people, and its relationship with Catholicism and the Church. Many of these events are centered around an area called “The City of Joy” whose offerings will highlight that fruit of the Holy Spirit while inviting the pilgrims into the source of joy – reconciliation and forgiveness. 

While WYD maintains a strict adherence to its successful format there have been additions throughout the years. The WYD of Denver, in 1993, was the first to feature a reenactment of the Stations of the Cross through the streets of the host city. Paris, in 1997, brought the inclusion of “Days of the Dioceses” which features activities that highlight the culture, art, and spirituality of the host city and its region. Cologne, in 2005, added Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament to the Saturday Evening Vigil celebration.  

Each WYD adheres to a Scriptural theme. They have been as follows. 

1986, Rome: “Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you.” 1 Peter 3:15 

1987, Buenos Aires: “We ourselves have known and put our faith in God’s love.” 1 John 4:16 

1989, Santiago de Compostela: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” John 14:6 

1991, Czestochowa: “You have received a spirit of sonship.” Romans 8:15 

1993, Denver: “I came so everyone would have life and have it fully.” John 10:10 

1995, Manila: “As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.” John 20:21 

1997, Paris: “Master where do you live? Come and see.” John 1:38-39 

2000, Rome: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” John 1:14 

2002, Toronto: “You are the salt of the earth, you are the light of the world” Matthew 5:13-14 

2005, Cologne: “We have come to worship him.” Matthew 2:2 

2008, Sydney: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you” Acts 1:8 

2011, Madrid: “Planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the Faith” Colossians 2:7 

2013, Rio de Janeiro: “Go and make disciples among all nations” Matthew 28:19 

2016, Krakow: “Blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy” Matthew 5:7) 

2019, Panama City: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it unto me according to thy word” Luke 1:38 

2023, Lisbon: “Mary arose and went with haste” Luke 1:39 

The offering of WYD was conceived by Pope St. John Paul II in 1984. The first nine WYD gatherings were celebrated during his pontificate. Three were celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI, and Lisbon will be the fourth WYD for Pope Francis. In his message of invitation for pilgrims of WYD Lisbon, Pope Francis offered these thoughts. 

Mary shows to all of us, and especially to you, young people like herself, the path of proximity and encounter. She sets out to find the most genuine of all connections: the one that comes from encounter, sharing, love, and service. My message for you, dear young people, the great message entrusted to the Church, is Jesus. Yes, Jesus himself, in his infinite love for each of us, his salvation and the new life he has bestowed upon us. Mary is our model; she shows us how to welcome this immense gift into our lives, to share it with others, and thus to bring Christ, his compassionate love, and his generous service to our deeply wounded humanity. Press ahead and do not postpone all the good that the Holy Spirit can accomplish in you. With affection, I bless your dreams and every step of your journey.  

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