Isabel Correa, fifth from left, was among coordinators from around the world in Lisbon last month for preparation meetings for World Youth Day 2023, which will be held in August in the Portuguese city. (Photo courtesy Isabel Correa)

Portugal trip hypes World Youth Day 2023

  • November 10, 2022

With preparations ramping up for the upcoming World Youth Day (WYD) in Lisbon, Portugal, next summer, participants can expect an interreligious and ecumenical focus, said the Canadian coordinator for the event.

Isabel Correa travelled to Lisbon last month where she met with local organizers, bishops’ conference representatives, youth ministries and Catholic congregations from around the world. Her trip kicked off in Fatima with the International Preparatory Meeting from Oct.17-19.

Organizers want to welcome pilgrims from all over the world, regardless of religious background, said Correa. WYD 2023 will be designed to fit a “synodal experience,” which means more active participation and dialogue. 

Correa, an associate professor at Laval University, was privy to an overview detailing how the WYD experience would look. The local organizing committee and the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life explained how they prepared the theme, their vision for the main program, location details and volunteering. The Montreal academic said the event was informative, but also allowed time for appreciating the host city’s unique cultural identity.

“We got to meet delegates from all around the world and see the efforts of young people in the country,” she said. “Although these are intense days of planning, the Portuguese people welcomed us. They were super warm and excited, but they were asking for a lot of prayers — hosting WYD is no easy task.”

The meeting, which took aim at solidifying WYD’s organization, was hosted by the local organizing committee of the XXXVII WYD in Lisbon and the youth desk of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life. Only two delegates from each country were invited.

Started by Pope John Paul II, the first WYD transpired in April 1985 in Rome. Due to its many successes over the years — including Toronto in 2002 — the faith-filled event informally garnered the nickname the “Catholic Woodstock.” The last one was held in Panama in 2019. Lisbon will be the first WYD since the pandemic.

Cardinal Kevin Joseph Farrell, the prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, concluded the preparatory meeting with an appeal to the Holy Spirit, imploring that “the next World Youth Day be an open space where young people can meet Christ and find in Him their vocation in life.” He also entreated that the day be “a new beginning” for society, “from which we can act as Mary did: ‘She got up and left without delay.’ ”

In his final remarks, Farrell made allusion to Luke 1:39. The phrase comes from the biblical account of the Visitation, at the point where Mary has just agreed to become the Mother of God and decides to visit her expectant cousin Elizabeth in the not-so-near village of Ain Karim.

The idea of “rising” and “setting off” illustrated in Luke’s Gospel derived the theme for WYD, “rise up,” which has also doubled as the name for the preparatory catechesis. Pope Francis’ vision for WYD 2023 outlined that young people’s evangelization might “be active and missionary, for this is how they will recognize and witness the presence of the living Christ,” just like Mary responded to her call, leaving in haste after Archangel Gabriel’s visit.

Directly after the International Preparatory Meeting, Correa hosted a “Familiarization Trip” for other Canadian WYD group leaders. Partnering with Spiritours, a travel agency with a focus on pilgrimage planning, she organized a tour to visit Portugal’s holy sites, to explore some host diocese options and to familiarize group leaders with destinations and services. 

“Through the success of the familiarization trip, we have high hopes for WYD 2023. It will be an injection of hope into our world right now. Especially since we are in the context of war, pandemic and economic crisis, planning on welcoming people to build hope for this generation and current generations is a crazy endeavour that must be led by the Holy Spirit,” she said.

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