WYD Lisbon 2023, Maria Fischer •
It feels like going through withdrawal. The thousands of young people are missing, the hectic pace of press releases and photos offered by the WYD Lisbon 2023 press center, the live transmissions, the work against the clock of the schoenstatt.org team to cover the experiences in Lisbon… What will the youth of this World Youth Day take with them? And what about us? What about the many critics who were not there, but “know” that there was a lack of critical press, that everything was too conservative, or modern, that the Pope did not meet their expectations? What was this World Youth Day? —
Last Wednesday, at the first general audience after World Youth Day, Pope Francis himself gives us the answer.
He calls it a new beginning of the pilgrimage of young people after the pandemic. He speaks to us of the Virgin in haste, “who always does things in haste, never making us wait, because she is the mother of all. Thus Mary today, in the third millennium, guides the pilgrimage of young people in the footsteps of Jesus.”
” World Youth Day showed everyone that another world is possible, a world of brothers and sisters, where the flags of all peoples fly together, next to each other, without hatred, without fear, without closing up, without weapons! The message of the young people was clear: will the “mighty of the earth” listen to it, I wonder? Will they listen to this youthful enthusiasm that wants peace? It is a parable for our time, and even today Jesus says: “He who has ears, let him hear. He who has eyes, let him see!” Let us hope that the entire world will listen to this World Youth Day and watch this beauty of the young, going forward.”.
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
In the past few days, I went to Portugal for the 37th World Youth Day. This World Youth Day in Lisbon, which took place after the pandemic, was considered by all to be a gift from God, who set in motion once again the hearts and footsteps of young people from all over the world. Many young people from all over the world — many of them — to encounter one another and to encounter Jesus.
As we well know, the pandemic had a severe impact on social behaviour: isolation that often degenerated into closure, and young people were particularly affected. With this World Youth Day, God gave a “push” in the other direction. It marked a new beginning of the great pilgrimage of young people across the continents, in the name of Jesus Christ. And it was not a coincidence that this happened in Lisbon, a city overlooking the ocean, a city that is a symbol of the great maritime explorations.
And so, at World Youth Day, the Gospel proposed the example of the Virgin Mary to young people. At the most critical time, she goes to visit her cousin Elizabeth, and the Gospel says Mary “arose and went with haste” (Lk 1:39). I like to invoke Our Lady in this way”, Our Lady “in haste” who always does things with haste. She never makes us wait because she is the mother of everyone. In this way, Mary guides the pilgrimage of young people who follow Jesus today, in the third millennium, just as she did a century ago in Portugal, at Fatima, when she spoke to three children, and entrusted them with a message of faith and hope for the Church and the world. That is why I returned to Fatima during World Youth Day, to the place where the apparition took place, and, together with some young people who are sick, I prayed to God that he would heal the world from the diseases of the soul: pride, lies, enmity, violence are diseases of the soul, and the world is ailing from these diseases. And we renewed our consecration, the consecration of Europe, of the world, to Mary, to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. I prayed for peace because there are many wars all over the world, so many.
The young people of the world came to Lisbon in large numbers and with great enthusiasm. I met them in small groups and some had many problems. The group of young Ukrainians brought stories that were painful. It was not a holiday, a tourist trip and not even a spiritual event for its own sake. World Youth Day is an encounter with the living Christ through the Church: young people go to encounter Christ. It is true that where there are young people, there is joy, there is a bit of all these things!
My visit to Portugal, on the occasion of World Youth Day, benefited from the festive atmosphere of this wave of young people. I thank God for this, thinking especially of the Church in Lisbon who, in exchange for the great effort made in organizing and hosting it, will receive new energies to continue her new journey, to cast her nets once again with apostolic zeal. The youth of Portugal are already today a vital presence, and now, after this “transfusion” received from Churches around the world, they will become even more so. And many young people passed through Rome on their way back from Lisbon. We are seeing them here too. There are some who participated in this Day. There they are! Wherever there are young people, there is noise. They are good at making it!
While in Ukraine and other places in the world there is fighting, and while in certain hidden halls war is being planned — this is bad, war is being planned! — World Youth Day showed everyone that another world is possible, a world of brothers and sisters, where the flags of all peoples fly together, next to each other, without hatred, without fear, without closing up, without weapons! The message of the young people was clear: will the “mighty of the earth” listen to it, I wonder? Will they listen to this youthful enthusiasm that wants peace? It is a parable for our time, and even today Jesus says: “He who has ears, let him hear. He who has eyes, let him see!” Let us hope that the entire world will listen to this World Youth Day and watch this beauty of the young, going forward.
Once again, I express my gratitude to Portugal, to Lisbon, to the President of the Republic, who was present at all the celebrations, and to the other civil authorities; to the Patriarch of Lisbon, who was good; the President of the Episcopal Conference, and the Bishop who organized World Youth Day, and to all the collaborators and volunteers. Think that the volunteers — I went to meet them on the last day, before returning — numbered 25,000. This World Youth Day had 25,000 volunteers! Thank you all! Through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, may the Lord bless the young people of the entire world and may he bless the Portuguese people. Let us pray together to Our Lady, all together, that she may bless the Portuguese people.