The Sending Mass, celebrated by Pope Francis, took place on 6 August in Campo da Graça. This was the last central event of World Youth Day Lisbon 2023.
The morning in Campo da Graça started early. At 7am, a concert by DJ Father Guilherme helped wake up those who had not yet been awakened by the strong heat that was already being felt. The spirit in the air was one of joy and nostalgia for the week of fun and reunion that was just hours away from ending.
A crowd of around one and a half million people awaited the start of the Sending Mass, the last central event of WYD Lisbon 2023. After 11 hours of the Vigil, Pope Francis arrived once again at Campo da Graça, with the warm welcome we have become accustomed to throughout the week.
In his homily, the Holy Father reinforced a message taken from the Gospel, based on three points: “shine, listen, do not fear”.
“Dear friends, even today we need something of light to face the darkness that assails us in life, so many daily defeats, to confront them with the light of Jesus’ resurrection. He is the light that does not go out, the light that shines even at night.”
Francis asked the young people not to be so selfish, and to look more at those around them, since “we do not become luminous when we put ourselves under the spotlight (…) But we shine when, welcoming Jesus, we learn to love as he loved”.
He then referred to God’s “simple and direct” command: “Listen to him”.
“Listen to Jesus, because although we have the best of wills, we follow paths that seem to be paths of love, but are selfishness disguised as love. Listen to the Lord, because he will tell us the way of love”, he continued.
Finally, he asked the young people not to be afraid. That they should not be afraid to do good, to pursue their dreams, to do more – “to you, young people, who are the present and the future… it is precisely to you, young people, that Jesus says: ‘Do not be afraid'”.
“Dear young people, I wish I could look each of you in the eye and say: do not be afraid! But I can tell you something much more beautiful: Jesus himself now looks at you, he who knows you and reads your innermost being; he looks into your heart, he knows your joys and sorrows, your successes and defeats. And he says to you today, here in Lisbon, at this World Youth Day: “Do not fear! Do not be afraid! Be encouraged!”, he added.
“And as you return home, please continue to pray for peace. You are a sign of peace for the world, a witness to how different nationalities, languages and histories can unite rather than divide. You are hope for a different world. Thank you. Onwards!”
Before announcing the location of the next WYD, Pope Francis offered a few words of thanks – “Before we say goodbye, I too want to say ‘thank you’. I say it first of all to Cardinal Clemente and, in him, to the Church and to all the Portuguese people: thank you! Thank you to the President, who accompanied us during these days; thank you to the national and local institutions for their support and assistance; thank you to the Bishops, priests, consecrated persons and lay people”.
“And thank you, Lisbon, which will remain in the memory of these young people as a ‘house of fraternity’ and a ‘city of dreams'”, he added.
After this speech came the moment everyone had been waiting for: the announcement of the next World Youth Day. First inviting young people to participate in the Jubilee of Youth in 2025 in Rome, the Pope then announced that the next WYD will be in South Korea in 2027.
“And so, from the western frontier of Europe, it will pass in the year 2027 to the far East: it is a beautiful sign of the universality of the Church and of the dream of unity of which you are witnesses!” he emphasised.
And so, after one week, World Youth Day Lisbon 2023 comes to an end. More than one and a half million pilgrims passed through Lisbon, all united by a single motive: love for Christ.
Now it’s time to start preparing for the next youth gatherings: in 2025, the Youth Jubilee in Rome; and in 2027, World Youth Day in Seoul, South Korea.