WYD Lisbon 2023

WYD Welcome ceremony: God loves us as we are. Everyone

Pope Francis welcomes pilgrims to XXXVII WYD in Lisbon and the symbols are taken onto the stage


Queridos jovens, boa tarde! Dear young people, good evening! Welcome and thank you for being here. I am pleased to see all of you, and also to hear the delightful noise you are making! This makes me share your infectious joy. Pope Francis speaks to each of the approximately 500,000 young pilgrims who arrived in Lisbon for the World Youth Day and gathered for the opening ceremony at Parque Eduardo VII, the park located in the center of the city.

After the opening address by the Patriarch of Lisbon, Cardinal Manuel José Macário do Nascimento Clemente, the young people featured in the ceremony are the protagonists of symbolic choreographies that culminate when they hand Pope Francis letters with their questions about life, faith and the Church, through which they entrust the Holy Father with their fears and doubts about their future. The moment of the parade with the flags of all the countries of the world, as always, is exciting and opens to the procession of the WYD symbols: the Pilgrim's Cross and the icon of Our Lady Salus Populi Romani, which, after a long journey throughout the Portuguese dioceses, finally reach the stage.

The Pope urges the young people who have arrived from all over the world to experience, during these days of the WYD, the joy of encounter and welcome.

Called by name and loved

Pope Francis thanks the youth for having accepted the invitation to participate and reminds them that first of all it is Jesus Himself who invited them: “You are not here by accident. The Lord has called you, not only in these days, but from the very beginning of your days. He called you by name. Let us listen to the word of God that called us by name. Try to imagine these three words written in large letters. Then consider that they were written within you, on your hearts, as if setting the direction of your lives, the meaning of who you are: you have been called by name”.  

We are called because we are loved, continues Pope Francis, for God we are all precious children as we are and He wants to make each of us a masterpiece.  The WYD can help us acknowledge this reality, the Pope notes, and he wishes each young person:

Let these be days when my name, and your names, spoken with friendship by brothers and sisters of many languages and nations – we see many flags – who pronounce it with friendship, resonate as unique news in history, for God’s heart beats uniquely for you. Let these be days when we fully realize in our hearts that we are loved just as we are. Not as we want to be, but as we are now. This is the starting point of World Youth Day, but above all it is the starting point of our lives.        

Every person is precious in the eyes of Jesus

Then the Holy Father observes that for God there is a face behind every name but that this is not always the case in society:

These are the illusions of the virtual world and we must be careful not to let ourselves be deceived, for many realities that attract us and promise happiness are later shown to be what they really are: soap bubbles, superfluous things that we don’t need and that leave us empty inside. Let me tell you: Jesus is not like that. He trusts you, each of you, each of us, because each of us matters to him, each one of you matters to him. That is how Jesus is.

There is room for everyone in the Church

The Church, a community not of people who are better than others rather of those who are called – emphasizes the Pope – welcoming everyone as brothers and sisters because they are children of the same Father, therefore: Friends, I want to be clear with you, for you are allergic to falsity and empty words: in the Church, there is room for everyone. Everyone. In the Church, no one is left out or left over. There is room for everyone. Just the way we are. Everyone. Jesus says this clearly. When he sends the apostles to invite people to the banquet which a man had prepared, he tells them: “Go out and bring in everyone”, young and old, healthy and infirm, righteous and sinners. Everyone, everyone, everyone!”   In the Church there is room for everyone. “Father, but I am a wretch, is there room for me? There is room for everyone! All together now, everyone, repeat with me in your own language: Everyone, everyone, everyone.  Each of you repeat in your language with me: “Everyone, everyone, everyone”. “In these days”, invites the    Pope, “each of us transmits the love of Jesus”.

Take heart and move forward being certain of God’s love

The questions addressed to the Holy Father in the letters symbolically delivered on stage are positive, Pope Francis continues, because they reveal the restlessness of the soul.

However, the Pope leaves an exciting message that opens up to hope: Dear young friends, I encourage you to reflect on the beautiful fact that God loves us.  God loves us as we are, not how we want to be or how society wants us to be. As we are! He calls us with our faults and failings, our limitations and our hopes in life. That is how God calls us. Trust, because God is a Father and a Father who loves us. This is not very easy. And for this reason we need a great help, the Mother of the Lord. She is our Mother too. She is our Mother. That is all I wanted to tell you. Don’t be afraid, take heart, move forward, knowing that all of us are “mortgaged” by the love God has for us. God loves us. Let us say it all together: God loves us. Louder, I can’t hear you! Thank you!

03 August 2023
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