He promises dad at the start of Portugal tour: ‘I’ll be back brand new’

Pope Francis will arrive in Lisbon this Wednesday to preside over the 2023 World Youth Day (WYD), which will be held in the Portuguese capital until August 6. This is the forty-two apostolic journey of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who wishes to return “renewed”. It will be the largest event in Portugal’s history, mobilizing more than a million people to more than 500 events scheduled for the week. In addition to the twenty events on the pope’s agenda, a discreet meeting was held with a small group of victims of sexual abuse within the Portuguese Church.

The pope will hold a meeting with students from the Catholic University of Lisbon, visit a popular neighborhood and travel to the Sanctuary of Fatima, where Bergoglio will pray with the sick and prisoners. The Vatican expects the pope to mention the war in Ukraine in Thursday’s prayers and to meet more than a dozen victims of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.

It was the pedophile scandal that rocked the Portuguese clergy and clouded the pope’s views. This year, nearly 5,000 minors have been victims of sexual abuse by members of the Portuguese Catholic Church since 1950, the committee of experts revealed in a report to be submitted to the pope. Meetings with the victims were not officially planned, and no specific location or time was given to protect the privacy of the twelve participants.

Francisco arrived at Figo Maduro air base in Lisbon at 9:45 am after a nearly three-hour flight from Rome on an Alitalia Airbus A320neo. More than 70 international journalists stationed in the Holy See boarded the same plane. In their presence, the pope confirmed he would return “rejuvenated” from the trip. The Pope told reporters: “This is the fourth World Youth Day, let us continue to make noise.” He also experienced youth in Krakow in 2016 and Panama in 2019, and did not rule out returning to Spain for apostolic travel.

Sitting in a wheelchair, the Pope was received at the foot of the runway by Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, President of the Portuguese Republic. Afterwards, the Pope drove to the Belém Palace, the official residence of the Portuguese head of state, to attend the official welcome ceremony. Francisco then received Prime Minister Antonio Costa and President of the Assembly of the Republic Augusto Ernesto dos Santos Silva. The final activity of the day is a visit to the Royal Monastery of Los Jerónimos, celebrating a meeting with the local clergy.

Bergoglio’s first meeting with the youngster will take place this Thursday. He will attend the opening ceremony of the 13th World Youth Day, he will confess to a group of young people, he will host the “Way of the Cross” to solve the problems and difficulties of young people, and he will listen to the stories of some young people. They will hold a vigil in the vast spaces of Tejo Park and will conclude with Mass at the same location.

It is estimated that more than one million people from all over the world have visited the Portuguese capital, which has a population of just over half a million. Participation was high among Spaniards, who accounted for nearly 20 percent of the 313,000 officially registered pilgrims before the day began.

The logistics were a challenge for organizers and Portuguese security forces, who mobilized nearly 16,000 soldiers, including police and first responders. Life in the capital and several nearby towns will be disrupted for six days as traffic on major arterial roads is disrupted and border controls resumed.


The trip was a litmus test for the health of the Argentinian pontiff, who at age 86 was hospitalized for nine days in early June following surgery for an abdominal hernia and three days in March for an acute hernia. Bronchitis, which has sparked speculation about his medical condition. “I’m alive,” joked Bergoglio as he left the Rome clinic where he was being treated. For now he has not changed his agenda, which includes other international trips to Mongolia and France this summer.

World Youth Day celebrations have also drawn controversy in neighboring countries, as the high costs must be borne by the Portuguese government and the cities of Lisbon, Llores and Oeiras, which will host the biggest events. Public funds are estimated at around 80 million euros, which, together with an additional 80 euros donated by the Portuguese Church, brings the total expenditure to 160 million euros.

The biggest controversy was the high cost of building a gigantic 2,000-capacity stage and altar in the Tagus Trançao Park, where the Last Mass will be held, at an initial cost of 5 million euros. The criticisms forced the artist to censor to cut costs and prompted the intervention of artist Bordallo II, who last Thursday secretly exhibited his work “Road of Shame” on the controversial high staircase, paving it A carpet with an image of a 500-euro banknote.

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