Lisbon, the capital of Portugal has opened its arms wide welcoming thousands of young people who gathered in the city on August 1-6, 2023 marking the World Youth Day (WYD). This August 2023 gathering has been an "august event" of youth from all parts of the world who celebrated love, mercy, and brotherly relations, in addition to dedication to the divine message of peace.
"The WYD is about believing that the experience will make a difference in the lives of young people and on their relationship with God," according Pope St. John Paul II. Furthermore, it offers young people the opportunity to jointly celebrate faith in their own ways. The experience that the youth have gone through is unique as it rejuvenates their invincible will to change the face of our globe that has been going through rigorous conditions that could wreak havoc on all occupations.
The holding of the WYD can be attributed to Jubilee Year of the Redemption in 1984. At the time, Pope John Paul II invited young Catholic faithful from all over the world to join him at St. Peter’s Square on Palm Sunday. The celebration, God’s merciful love in this holy year of redemption, observed every 25 years by the worldwide Catholic community. The number that accepted the Pope’s invitation was staggering. Over 300,000 young people convened with single-minded purpose. Never before had so many young people gathered in such vast numbers. The following year, the Pope called youth to Rome again, this time to celebrate the United Nations' International Youth Year. And again, the numbers grew. It was at this celebration that the Pope entrusted the Holy Year Cross to the youth of the world. Thus, with that, the St. Pope’s dream of planning an epic event for the world’s young Catholics was born. The WYD brings together young Catholics from around the world to celebrate their faith. The WYD serves as an encounter of the youth of the world with the Holy Father and the Christian community of the host country. With a renewed faith in Jesus Christ, young people go out into the world to be witnesses to the Gospel.
The importance of this global WYD is reminiscent of Pope Francis' address to the youth at the time in Rio de Janeiro in 2013 when he said: "Lord Jesus is speaking to each one of us saying, 'It was wonderful to take part in World Youth Day, to live the faith together with young people from the four corners of the Earth, but now you must go, now you must pass on this experience to others.' Jesus is calling you to be a disciple with a mission!"
With the conclusion of WYD 2023, around 354,000 pilgrims from over 143 countries--including Spain, Italy, Portugal, France and the United States--have attended the event. These young people, who are the hope of the future, will go home overwhelmed with a new and unique experience in life, namely to be "disciples of Lord Jesus with a mission" dedicated to divine-inspired harmony.
In a recent interview in Lisbon, Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States and International Organizations, has pointed out, “In a moment where the world is going through many difficulties, we desperately need a message of hope for the future, and I think that is what we’re all going to take away from Lisbon.” He added, “I think our hope for the future as a Church, is renewed commitment to our faith, to living the Gospel and to giving a witness to the world.”
At a time when the youth from all parts of the world gather grasping Lord Jesus' call on them to be disciples with missions, it is exigently important for all world leaders to emulate this noble gathering by holding "a leaders’ day" of gathering. Such a proposed gathering must handle defusing world tensions, with the intention of spreading global peace, solving the world's chronic problems, and ensuring the new generations a bright future free from violence and wars. Among the outstanding global problems is climate change as a time when some countries suffer from inclement weather conditions represented by thick layers of snow covering the streets in summer and heavy rainfall, other countries suffer from sweltering heat and forest fires.
With the WYD serving as a noble model of progress towards the attainment of human fraternity, this model should be emulated at all levels so as to entrench global permanent peace and progress.