A Message from Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M.
Genuine excitement is felt among young Catholics throughout the world as World Youth Day (WYD) 2023 begins in Lisbon, Portugal, August 1 through August 6. Originally scheduled for last year at this time but postponed due to the pandemic, approximately 677,000 young people from 126 countries on five continents will gather for the celebration of the Catholic faith.
Pope Francis announced in 2019 that the theme of the 2023 event would be “Mary arose and went with haste” (Lk 1:39).
“Do not tune out the voice of God, who urges you to arise and follow the paths He has prepared for you,” Pope Francis said. “Like Mary, and in union with her, may you daily bring to others all your love and joy.”
In his “Message for WYD 2023” released last summer, Pope Francis reflected,
“Dear young people, it is my dream that at World Youth Day you will be able to experience anew the joy of encountering God and our brothers and sisters. After a long period of social distancing and isolation, we will all rediscover in Lisbon – with God’s help – the joy of a fraternal embrace between peoples and generations, an embrace of reconciliation and peace, an embrace of new missionary fraternity! May the Holy Spirit kindle in your hearts a desire to ‘raise’ and the joy of journeying together, in synodal fashion, leaving behind all false frontiers. Now is the time to arise! Like Mary, let us ‘arise and go in haste.’ Let us carry Jesus within our hearts and bring him to all those whom we meet! In this beautiful season of your lives, press ahead and do not postpone all the good that the Holy Spirit can accomplish in you! With affection, I bless your dreams and every step of your journey” (Aug. 15, 2022).
WYD 2023 has the distinction of occurring two months before the world-wide Synod of Bishops in Rome, with its emphasis on “journeying together.”
Pope Francis, who will travel to Lisbon for the event, told the youthful pilgrims from all over the world:
“I wish you a good journey. I hope you arrive at the encounter filled with joy. Take this path and make a journey. Life is about making a journey. Young people have the vocation to make a journey. Strive ahead courageously, always looking toward your destination. Do so with the mysticism of the journey, always walking with others and never alone. May God bless you. And thank you for your efforts and your hard work.”
As Bishop of the Diocese of Trenton, I join the Holy Father in those prayerful, good wishes, especially for those young Catholics from our Diocese and the other dioceses in New Jersey making the trip. “Our young Catholic faithful are not only the future but also the ‘present’ of the Church. Whatever can be done to encourage, support and deepen their faith and their encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ in and with one another provides the opportunity to strengthen our Catholic Church and its mission of evangelization.”
On the weekend of July 22-23, the Diocese of Trenton and all dioceses throughout the world celebrated another “world day,” this one for grandparents and the elderly. In his Sunday remarks from the window overlooking St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis prayed:
“May the proximity of the two ‘World Days’ offer us an invitation to promote a much-needed covenant between generations, because the future is built together, as we share experiences and as young people and the elderly care for each other.”
After two successful international gatherings with young people in Rome in 1984 and 1985, Pope St. John Paul II instituted the observance of “World Youth Day” as a regular gathering of youth and young adults for prayer, worship, and celebration of the Catholic faith. He told the College of Cardinals in 1985, "…the whole Church, in union with the Successor of Peter, must be more and more committed, globally, to youth and young adults – and to their anxieties and concerns and to their openness, hopes, and expectations…"
WYD 2023 will be, like those before it, a multi-day “festival of faith” and an opportunity for prayer, catechesis and evangelization, camaraderie and joyful celebration among Catholic young people there in Lisbon with the highlight being the presence and encouragement of Pope Francis. Although 86, the Holy Father’s youthful spirit will transcend the diverse, international communities of every age and background, calling everyone – whether in Lisbon or at home – to a deeper love of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Vaya con Dios!