Pope Francis addresses the 1.5 million gathered pilgrims at the closing mass

Pope Francis spoke to more than one and a half million young people gathered in Tejo Park in Lisbon for the final act of World Youth Day 2023.

To them, who are the present and the future, he repeats that they must not become discouraged and that they must not fear even when they feel powerless in the face of the world's great issues; on the contrary, "the Church and the world need you like the soil to the land".

The popemobile arrived at the same place as the Vigil the night before: it was the signal for the young people, who swarm towards the barriers to greet its passage, zig-zagging through the colourful mosaic of tents, sleeping bags, backpacks, mats. On the other side, above, especially in front of the stage were 700 bishops and at least 10,000 priests ready to concelebrate the final Mass.

With the greeting of the Patriarch of Lisbon, Cardinal Manuel Clemente, thanked the Pontiff for the jolt of energy he had given these days, and the liturgy of the Feast of the Transfiguration began. The Pope explained the Gospel of Matthew and asked the young people to make Peter's words their own: "Lord, it is good for us to be here", but then we have to start from here. "After these days," the Pope asks, "what do we take with us as we return to the valley of daily life? Based on the Gospel we have heard, I would like to answer this question with three verbs: to shine, to listen, and to be unafraid.

The first invitation was to to Shine. Jesus transfigures himself before Peter, James and John. "This 'bath of light' prepares them for the night they will have to pass through; this glimpse of light will help them sustain the fatigue of the darkest hours, those of Gethsemane and Calvary". Similarly, a person becomes bright not when he puts himself in the spotlight, but when he opens himself to God. "You will be light, the day you do works of love, but to do this you cannot become selfish, if you become selfish the light will go out," the Pontiff explained.

The second word was to listen: "The secret is this: listen to Jesus. Take the Gospel and listen to what it says to your heart". And "beware", says the Pope, "of forms of selfishness disguised as love, listen to Him because He will tell you which is the path of love".

Finally, to be unafraid. These are the last words Jesus says to his disciples. "And to you young people who in this time are tempted to become discouraged, to hide your pain under a smile, to you who want to change the world and put effort and imagination into it, but it seems to you that it is not enough, to you young people whom the Church needs, whom the world needs like earth needs rain, to you who are the present and the future, to you young people precisely Jesus says: 'Do not fear, do not be afraid'".

The Pope then asks for a moment of silence so that each one could repeat within himself the invitation of Jesus not to fear. "Dear young people," the Pope continued, "I would like to look into the eyes of each one of you and say to you: Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid."

He assured them that Jesus Himself is looking out on them: "What is more, I tell you something very beautiful: It is no longer me, it is Jesus Himself who is looking at you, at this moment. He is looking at us. He knows you, He knows the heart of each one of you, He knows the life of each one of you. He knows your joys, He knows your sorrows, your successes, and your failures. He knows your hearts, and He says to you today, here, in Lisbon, at this World Youth Day, 'Do not be afraid. Do not be afraid. Take heart, do not be afraid."

Korean young people were particulary excited to hear that Seoul would be the next host of World Youth Day!

After the Mass there it was time for the concluding acts of WYD and the official thanksgiving - also by Pope Francis, who cited St John Paul II for help from Heaven, and then referred to the constant presence of Jesus and Mary, in these days and in daily lives of everyone.

Then came the official announcement and the Holy Father's double invitation: almost thirty years after the one in the Philippines (1995), an Asian country will again host WYD. "The next World Youth Day will take place in Asia and it will be in South Korea, in Seoul, in 2027.  It is a move from the western frontier of Europe to the Far East. This is a beautiful sign of the universality of the Church and of the dream of unity to which you are all witnesses," declared the Pope amidst the enthusiasm of the Asian pilgrims. Without forgetting the intermediate stage to which the Pope invited everyone present for the Youth Jubilee, in Rome, in 2025.

Finally, before saying goodbye to the pilgrims, Pope Francis recited the Angelus prayer with the one and a half million boys and girls present in Parque Tejo. And with them he shared his desire, his dream for a "future of peace" for the world: "I dream of young people praying for peace, living in peace and building a peaceful future".


With thanks to ANS for this story