Every three years, the Catholic Church brings together young people from all corners of the world for an extraordinary event known as World Youth Day. In 2023, the beautiful city of Lisbon, Portugal, hosted this remarkable gathering of faith. This year around 500 pilgrims from Melbourne archdiocese and Sale Diocese participated in the event and I had the privilege of journeying with this amazing group of young people from our dioceses. One of the most significant highlights of the event was the two days of pilgrimage to the renowned Fatima shrine, offering a unique opportunity for spiritual nourishment and growth.

Fatima holds great significance for Catholics around the world due to the apparitions of the Virgin Mary to three shepherd children. Young pilgrims arrived at Fatima with a sense of anticipation, eager to experience the sanctity and holiness of this sacred place. The days in Fatima were filled with prayer, reflection, and an atmosphere of deep reverence. Pilgrims had the chance to participate in the Holy Mass, celebrated by Bishop Tony Ireland (Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne) and many concelebrating priests. As night descended on Fatima, thousands of young people held candles aloft, creating a sea of lights that illuminated the darkness. The candlelight procession was a moving expression of faith and unity. This symbolic act was a powerful reminder of the role young people play in bringing light to a world often overshadowed by darkness and doubt.


World Youth Day in Lisbon kicked off with an exuberant opening ceremony that set the tone for the days ahead. The atmosphere was charged with excitement and anticipation as young people gathered from all over the world, waving flags of their respective countries. The opening Mass celebrated the unity in diversity and marked the beginning of a spiritual journey that would span for several days.

Throughout the event, young pilgrims had the privilege of engaging in catechesis sessions led by various bishops and theologians. These sessions looked into the deeper aspects of faith, addressing the challenges young people face in a rapidly changing world. The intellectual and spiritual nourishment received during these sessions empowered the youth to be confident witnesses of their faith.


World Youth Day was not just about spiritual growth; it was also a celebration of diverse cultures and talents. Music concerts and exhibitions showcased the richness of Catholic traditions from around the world. The vibrant performances and artistic expressions served as a reminder of the universality of the Church and its capacity to adapt and evolve while maintaining its core values.

The highlight of World Youth Day was undoubtedly the night vigil and the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament with Pope Francis. During the Vigil, Pope Francis delivered a heartfelt message to the young pilgrims, urging them to embrace courage in expressing their faith in Jesus Christ. The quiet moments of adoration allowed participants to deepen their connection with God, reinforcing their commitment to a life of faith and love.

Pope Francis, in his humility and wisdom, spoke directly to the hearts of the young people. He encouraged them to be "the salt of the earth and the light of the world," reminding them of their immense potential to bring about positive changes in the world through their faith and love. His words resonated deeply with the youth, igniting a renewed sense of purpose and determination.

It not only provided an opportunity for spiritual nourishment but also allowed young people to form lasting friendship with pilgrims from all corners of the globe. This sense of community and connection served as a powerful reminder of the universality of the Catholic faith and the strength that comes from standing together in faith.


As the young pilgrims returned to their homes, they carried with them the lessons, memories, and the renewed sense of purpose gained during this extraordinary event. World Youth Day in Lisbon served as a powerful reminder that the Catholic Church believes in the potential of its youth and is committed to nurturing their faith and guiding them on their journey of spirituality, hope, and love.


Article by Fr. Avinash George