The “Days in the Dioceses”, which took place from the 26th to the 31st of July, gathered around 67 thousand pilgrims from more than 126 countries, in 17 dioceses of mainland Portugal and islands.
There were days of great enthusiasm with the pilgrims experiencing very special and meaningful moments.
The “Days in the Dioceses”, which take place in the week before the World Youth Day Lisbon 2023, are an initiative that consists of the integration of young people who wish, before the Day, to know better the reality of the country that will host them.
Since the week of “Days in the Dioceses” is a way of preparing to experience the great meeting that is World Youth Day, the objective of this reception in the various dioceses of the country is that young people can get to know the richness of the Church in the country that welcomes them, as well as its cultural richness. It also consists of integrating young people into parish communities across the country.
This is also an opportunity for communities in each country to share their culture, customs and cuisine.
The dioceses of the Algarve, Angra, Aveiro, Beja, Braga, Bragança-Miranda, Coimbra, Évora, Funchal, Guarda, Lamego, Leiria-Fátima, Portalegre-Castelo Branco, Porto, Viana do Castelo, Vila Real and Viseu, during the “Days in the Dioceses” more than 67 thousand and 600 young pilgrims from 126 countries.
Porto was the diocese chosen by most pilgrims, having welcomed more than 16,500 pilgrims. This was followed by the dioceses of Coimbra, with more than 14 thousand, Leiria-Fátima with 7500 participants and Braga and Aveiro, which welcome, respectively, 7000 and 5000 people.
With regard to pilgrims from the Youth Movement, the choice also fell on the city Invicta, with Porto hosting six groups from the Movement. The remaining SYM pilgrims stayed in the dioceses of Aveiro, Algarve, Braga, Évora and Castelo Branco.
Days in the Dioceses: the image
The image for the days in the dioceses was created by Miguel Mendes, coordinator of the Salesianos Foundation communication team. The image, which maintains the graphic line of WYD 2023, presents the three colors of the event, green, red and yellow (colors that represent the Portuguese flag), and includes 17 cathedrals, one from each diocese that will participate in this pre-WYD event .
For Miguel, the biggest challenge was “to be able to place the 17 cathedrals in a single image, in a dynamic way and that maintained details that allowed the easy identification of each of the cathedrals”.
“It is an honor, and a joy, to be able to leave my mark on an event that had already been dreamed of since the days when I belonged to the National Department of Youth Pastoral and in which I participated in WYD 2011, which took place in Madrid”, he added.
In Salesian houses
It was on the 26th of July that some Salesian houses began to receive the first pilgrims. For Fr. Sebastião Coelho, director of the Salesianos de Évora, the experience was “five stars”. Highlighting the friendliness of the pilgrims, their education and their willingness to collaborate whenever necessary, the priest also underlines the “sharing” that has taken place among all the volunteers. “It has been very beautiful, this sharing with the people who are working here, with the volunteers”, he concludes.
At the moment of farewell, he confided to us that many pilgrims did not want to leave for Lisbon, as they enjoyed the experience in the city, having even offered to help welcome the remaining pilgrims who will arrive.
In Évora, the numbers show 70 volunteers who made themselves available to help in these “Days in the Dioceses”. To these, join all the employees of the Salesians of Évora and another 22 pilgrims from Cape Verde, who will also be present in voluntary service.
On the 27th of July it was the turn of the diocese of Porto to welcome a group of Polish Salesian pilgrims. Comprising 362 participants, the group is made up mainly of pilgrims from the Salesian provinces of Kraków and Wrocław, and from the provinces of the Salesian Sisters of Warsaw and Wrocław.
The group included 22 Salesian priests (1 of them diocesan) 1 cleric, 13 Salesian sisters and 2 seraphs of the Franciscan order.
Polish pilgrims began preparing for WYD Lisbon 2023 three years ago, with a training program called “Wtań” (Rise up), which included monthly meetings on various topics related to religion.
After passing through Turin and Zaragoza, the Polish delegation arrived at the diocese of Porto, where they were warmly welcomed. “The parishes of Porto received us very, very warmly! The volunteers welcomed us warmly and kindly. After settling in, we had a hot meal waiting for us. Afterwards, we spent an evening together, learning about each other’s cultures. We all had a great time!” says Zuzia Bratek, from the Salesian province of Auschwitz.
In a sharing of faith, culture and gastronomy, the “Days in the Dioceses” allow participants to get to know a little better the reality of the country that will welcome them, at the same time that they can, themselves, make known, a little more of their culture . It was like this at Paróquia de Avintes, in Vila Nova de Gaia, where some Polish pilgrims enlivened the night with their music and dances.
Dressed up, with typical costumes, the pilgrims danced and enchanted everyone with their grace and friendliness. The bravest ones didn’t want to stop trying out traditional Polish dances, and joined the group too. At the end there was still time for a gastronomic sharing, with Polish sweets gaining great prominence.
Over these days, there were several groups of pilgrims who reported and recorded their entire journey. One such case is the group of Salesians from Córdoba, who, over the course of these days, have produced videos daily so that everyone can closely follow this great adventure they have lived.
Housed in Arcozelo, in the diocese of Porto, the Spanish pilgrims were able to experience everything that happened in the Invicta City for seven days. “These days in the diocese of Porto have been very special, they are teaching me to have a closer relationship with God and with my friends”, says one of the young pilgrims from Córdoba, in one of the videos published.
Great youth rally
At the end of the “Days in the Dioceses” initiative, Fr. Filipe Diniz, national coordinator highlighted the “protagonism” of young people, who experienced “expressive moments; very special and meaningful moments”.
For the national responsible for the “Days in the Dioceses” it was “interesting” to see the joy of the young people.
“We are not indifferent, society itself is not indifferent”, concluded the priest.