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At World Youth Day vigil, Pope Francis urges Catholics to be ‘roots of joy’

Pope Francis waves to World Youth Day pilgrims in Lisbon, Portugal, at the start of a vigil service on Aug. 5, 2023. / Vatican Media

Lisbon, Portugal, Aug 5, 2023 / 16:47 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis on Saturday urged attendees at World Youth Day to make themselves “roots of joy” in the lives of others, calling on the huge young crowd to draw on the “love of Jesus” to “walk in hope” as they journey through life. 

The Holy Father gave the address at the Saturday vigil that took place near the end of the World Youth Day celebrations in Lisbon, Portugal. The vigil took place in the city’s Parque Tejo. 

Pope Francis gives an address at the Saturday vigil for World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal’s Parque Tejo on Aug. 5, 2023. Credit: Vatican Media

Pope Francis spent most of the week in Lisbon and the surrounding region, visiting with civil dignitaries, Church officials, and World Youth Day participants. On Saturday morning in Fátima he had prayed a rosary with young people with disabilities alongside a participatory crowd of about 200,000 attendees.

On Saturday the pope addressed the crowd — estimated at upwards of 800,000 people — with the story of the Virgin Mary, who the Gospel of Luke says “departed and went without delay” to her cousin upon finding out she was pregnant with Christ.

“That is what love makes us do,” the pope said. Joy, he said, “is missionary. Joy is not for one. It is to bring something.”

“I ask you,” he said to the crowd, “you who are here, who have come to meet, to seek the message of Christ, to seek a beautiful meaning in life: Will you keep this for yourselves, or will you bring it to others?”

Pope Francis smiles while addressing pilgrims at a vigil gathering on Aug. 5, 2023, at World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal. Vatican Media

Departing frequently from his prepared script as he has done throughout his visit to Portugal, Francis asked attendees to remember people who have acted as “rays of light” in their own lives.

“Did you find faces, did you find stories?” he asked. “That joy that came from those roots is what we have to give. Because we have roots of joy, roots of joy. And we too can be for others roots of joy.”

At the conclusion of his brief remarks, Pope Francis told the crowd: “I leave you with this idea: Walk and if you fall, get up. Walk with a goal, train every day in life. Nothing in life is free, everything is paid for.”

“There is only one thing free: the love of Jesus,” he added. ”So with this free thing that we have, the love of Jesus, and with the desire to walk, let’s walk in hope, let’s look at our roots and go forward, without fear.”

Eucharistic adoration followed the pope’s address. The display of the monstrance led many of the hundreds of thousands of young attendees to kneel even as they were out of view of the main event stage. 

Eucharistic adoration followed an address by Pope Francis at the Saturday vigil for World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal’s Parque Tejo on Aug. 5, 2023. Credit: Vatican Media

‘A moment to rest in God’

Since the early part of the morning on Saturday, a steady and growing stream of pilgrims filled Dom João II Avenue and adjoining streets in southern Lisbon as they marched toward the vigil and final Mass with Pope Francis.

As temperatures soared toward 95 degrees Fahrenheit and Lisbon authorities issued an orange-level heat advisory, registered pilgrims received bags of food and water for two days while preparing to camp out overnight for the culmination of the international gathering.

Pilgrims arrived several hours to the site of the Saturday evening vigil on Aug. 5, 2023, with Pope Francis amid warnings about high heat in Lisbon, Portugal. Hannah Brockhaus/CNA


While some young people walked from lodgings roughly one mile from the park, others spent the whole morning journeying to the vigil carrying backpacks, sleeping bags, and rolled-up exercise mats.

Isadora Mercado, 20, from Santiago, Chile, said her group of about 55 people left their lodgings in north Lisbon around 9:30 a.m. to trek to the park by bus, train, and foot.

World Youth Day has been “amazing,” she said. This weekend “I’m looking forward to having a moment for me to rest in God, preparing for the final Mass with the pope.”

Nina Würth, 26, from near Zurich, Switzerland, said her group of 400 young people walked nearly five hours, starting at 9 a.m., to reach the park, which has been dubbed “Field of Grace” by WYD organizers.

Pope Francis gives an address at the Saturday vigil for World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal’s Parque Tejo on Aug. 5, 2023. Credit: Vatican Media

“I’m really looking forward to the beautiful Mass tomorrow morning and just the bonding experience tonight with everybody,” Elizabeth Pinze, 19, said, as she and her group from Venice, Florida, walked to the vigil eight hours in advance of the start.

Jacob Morris, 22, from Dover in Kent, England, said World Youth Day has been “a great religious experience.” He added that he has especially enjoyed seeing the singing and dancing and joy of young people from other countries.

“It’s deepened my faith a lot,” he said. “We’ve made tons of cool friends.”

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