More than 2500 World Youth Day pilgrims from Australia and Oceania have been told that they will “do great things” as the global Catholic celebration commenced in Lisbon, Portugal.
Continuing a tradition from previous World Youth Days, an Australian gathering was held on Tuesday to celebrate the pilgrims’ faith and their homeland.
With one of the largest World Youth Day contingents ever from other countries in Oceania at the Portugal event, many of those young people also attended the gathering.
In welcoming the pilgrims, Australian Ambassador to Portugal Indra McCormick said: “You are, I’m sure, the largest single group of Australians ever to come to Portugal.”
Ms McCormick said that demonstrates that “the connection between faith communities in Australia and Portugal is an important part of the strong connection between our two countries”.
The Australian gathering featured prayer, reflections from Australian pilgrims on their experience so far visiting sacred sites in the Holy Land, Rome, France and Spain, and musical performances by Gen Bryant, Simon Hyland and Fr Rob Galea and their bands.
Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP, who coordinated World Youth Day in Sydney in 2008, said it was an “awesome sight” to see such a large gathering of young people “ready for the grace-filled week of World Youth Day”.
“With your lay leaders, pastors and Pope, you will be living-breathing, singing-dancing, praying-acting proof that the Catholic Church is alive and well,” he said.
“But we’re not here just to profile the Church. No, we’re here so something big will happen to you and through you.”
Before the final blessing and commissioning of the young people, Archbishop Fisher offered the encouragement that “the Church has great confidence in you”.
“Your pastors, families, teachers, leaders and peers have great confidence in you. By God’s grace you will do great things,” he said.
Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli had invited pilgrims to also see World Youth Day as the start of their journey to the Jubilee Year 2025 and the next Australian Catholic Youth Festival in December that year.
He invited all pilgrims to return home, to share their joy and to invite friends and family to the next great experience for the Church in Australia.
Pilgrims left the gathering and headed to the opening Mass for WYD 2023 Lisbon, to be celebrated at Parque Eduardo VII in the centre of the Portuguese capital.