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World Youth Day 2023: Lisbon patriarch greets attendees at opening Mass

Hundreds of thousands of people attended the opening Mass for World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal, on Aug. 1, 2023. / Credit: Julia Silva / JMJ Lisboa 2023

St. Louis, Mo., Aug 1, 2023 / 14:55 pm (CNA).

World Youth Day 2023 kicked off in Lisbon, Portugal, Aug. 1 with an opening Mass before a crowd of hundreds of thousands.

Cardinal Manuel Clemente, the patriarch of Lisbon, was the main celebrant for the Tuesday evening outdoor liturgy, held at Eduardo VII Park.

“Let us learn from Mary to greet each and every person. Let us intensely put it to practice this World Youth Day,” he said. “The new world begins in the newness of every encounter and in the sincerity of the greeting we exchange, so that we may be people among people, in a mutual and constant visitation.

“I wish you all a happy and inspiring World Youth Day,” he said.

Young people from around the world have gathered in the storied European capital for five days of worship, activities, and fellowship. This is the first World Youth Day to take place since the COVID-19 pandemic upended plans for a gathering in 2022; the last one took place in Panama in 2019. Pope Francis is expected to arrive for the festivities on Wednesday.

Organizers said at a press conference Tuesday morning that there are 354,000 pilgrims from at least 143 countries registered for the event.

Cardinal Manuel Clemente, the Patriarch of Lisbon, greets attendees of World Youth Day at the opening Mass on Aug. 1, 2023, in Lisbon, Portugal. Credit: Arlindo Homem / JMJ Lisboa 2023

In his homily, delivered over the noise of commercial jets flying overhead, Clemente spoke at length about the Gospel reading, which contained the biblical motto for World Youth Day: “Mary arose and went with haste” (Lk 1:39). He said the Gospel passage has three key points for the young congregation.

Firstly, “Mary set out. A path that was difficult and without the means of transportation that we have available today. She was young like all of you and had just conceived Jesus in a unique way, which the Gospel recounts,” the cardinal said. 

“All of you also set out. For many it was a difficult journey due to the distance, the connections, and the costs that the trip required. It was necessary to bring together resources, organize activities to obtain them, and rely on solidarity, which, thanks to God, was not lacking.”

“Mary carried in her womb the ‘blessed fruit’ that was Jesus,” Clemente continued.

“Christians also carry him, spiritually and actually because they receive him in the word, the sacraments, and in charity, where he offers himself. Since we believe in Jesus as a path to God, we walk with him to bring him to others. With the same impulse that led Mary, in the same Spirit that leads us, let us head out!”

A view of the crowd and nearby waterfront at the opening Mass for World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal, on Aug. 1, 2023. Credit: Arlindo Homem / JMJ Lisboa 2023

The second point, Clemente said, concerns Mary’s going “with haste” to the hill country of Judea to see her cousin. Clemente noted that Mary went “with haste but not anxiously … an urgency that is serene and without trampling.” 

“So you will be, in this haste, without anxiety, as one who shares what he has. What has brought you here and what you will take with you is made greater by the grace of these days!”

Finally, Clemente said, the Gospels tell of Elizabeth’s greeting to her cousin Mary: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” The cardinal exhorted the young people to begin every meeting they have with “a true greeting, in which we exchange words of sincere welcome and full sharing.”

“Lisbon welcomes you wholeheartedly,” he told the event’s participants. “You are welcomed by the families and institutions that have made their spaces and their service available. Thanking all of them, I see in each one the house of Elizabeth, which welcomed Mary and Jesus, whom she carried with her!”

Clemente was appointed patriarch of Lisbon by Pope Francis on May 18, 2013. He succeeded Bishop José Policarpo and was ordained cardinal by Pope Francis in February 2015. The auxiliary bishops of Lisbon are Bishop Joaquim Mendes and Bishop Américo Aguiar. 

Pope Francis is set to arrive in Lisbon Wednesday morning. After an official reception and welcome ceremony at the National Palace of Belém, which will include a courtesy visit to the Portuguese president, the pope is expected to pray vespers with a group of bishops, priests, deacons, consecrated men and women, seminarians, and pastoral workers at Jerónimos Monastery.

The official welcoming ceremony for World Youth Day with Pope Francis will take place at Meeting Hill (Eduardo VII Park) on Thursday, Aug. 3. 

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