Pope gets rockstar welcome at Lisbon youth jamboree | Inquirer News

Pope gets rockstar welcome at Lisbon youth jamboree

/ 04:46 AM August 04, 2023


Pope Francis arrives for the welcoming ceremony of World Youth Day (WYD) gathering of young Catholics, at Eduardo VII Park in Lisbon on August 3, 2023. Pope Francis today urged young people to focus on caring for the planet and fighting climate change, calling for an “integral ecology” that melds environmental protection with the fight against poverty and other social problems. Around one million pilgrims from around the world will attend the World Youth Day, the largest Catholic gathering in the world, created in 1986 by John Paul II. (Photo by MIGUEL RIOPA / AFP)

Lisbon, Portugal — Hundreds of thousands of chanting and flag-waving worshippers packed a Lisbon park on Thursday for a welcome ceremony for Pope Francis at a major Catholic youth festival.

Pilgrims shrieked and waved as the 86-year-old pontiff, surrounded by bodyguards, slowly drove by on his popemobile through the 26-hectare (64-acres) hillside Eduardo VII park.


“We are the pope’s youths!” they chanted as flags of national groups from Canada, Brazil, Latvia, Mexico, Spain, the United States and other nationals fluttered around them. Local authorities put the crowd size at 500,000.


“It’s very impressive. It’s intense! the atmosphere is great!” said Geoffroy Garcia-Benito, a 17-year-old student from Angers in western France as he held a French flag.

The crowd filled the park and its surrounding area. Many pilgrims had waited for hours under a blazing sun to get a view of the pope.

This is the pope’s first mass event with participants at this year’s World Youth Day, which is in fact a six-day international Catholic jamboree.

The pope arrived in the Portuguese capital on Wednesday, when he met with the clergy and victims of clerical sexual abuse.

‘Real change of heart’ 

Earlier on Thursday the pope urged young people to combine fighting to save the planet with tackling poverty during an address to students at Lisbon’s Catholic University.

“We must recognize the dramatic and urgent need to care for our common home,” he said, speaking in his native Spanish. “Yet this cannot be done without a real change of heart.”


“We cannot be satisfied with mere palliative measures or timid and ambiguous compromises,” added the pope, who has made the protection of the environment a cornerstone of his pontificate.

After his speech, the pope headed to Cascais, a seaside town some 30 kilometres (20 miles) west of Lisbon, to visit the local branch of his Scholas Occurrentes foundation, a movement he founded in 2013 to bring young people from different backgrounds and nationalities together.

In keeping with his unpretentious style, the pontiff was driven to the foundation in a white Toyota car.

At the foundation he answered questions from youths before putting the final brushstroke on a mural that the community has been working on.

“This is your Sistine Chapel,” the pope said, sparking laughter from the assembled youths.

Before leaving, the pope watered an olive tree, the symbol of peace, in the patio of the foundation.

‘Warm atmosphere’ 

Francis began his day meeting 15 young people from Ukraine at the Holy See’s diplomatic mission in Lisbon where he is staying, the Vatican said in a brief statement.

“After listening to their moving stories, he addressed a few words to the young people,” it added.

The meeting had not been listed on the official programme of the pope’s visit.

Organizers expect a million people from all over the world for the week of festive, cultural and spiritual events.

“What strikes me the most is the warm atmosphere between people, everyone is ready to share, to party even with strangers,” said Paolo Lotini, a 17-year-old from Italy.

“The energy transmitted between different nationalities is incredible,” he added.

Francis will deliver a Mass on Sunday in Lisbon on the last day of his five-day visit to Portugal, when temperatures are forecast to soar to 37 degrees Celsius (98.6 Fahrenheit).

World Youth Day, created in 1986 by John Paul II, is the largest Catholic gathering in the world and will feature a wide range of events, including concerts and prayer sessions.

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This edition, initially scheduled for August 2022 but postponed because of the pandemic, will be the fourth for Francis after Rio de Janeiro in 2013, Krakow in 2016 and Panama in 2019.


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TAGS: Lisbon, Pope Francis, Portugal, world news

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