Pope Francis Wants 2023 World Youth Day in Lisbon to be an "event with life"

Portuguese pilgrims at WYD 2019, excited that their home country is set to host the next World Youth Day. Jonah McKeown/CNA

Given the many challenges the world is facing, next year’s World Youth Day should be a gathering filled with life and strength, Pope Francis told the Portugal event’s organizers.

“In the midst of all these crises, you have to prepare and help so that the August 2023 event is a young event, a fresh event, an event with life, an event with strength, a creative event,” the pope said in a video message, shared on the World Youth Day 2023 website on March 7.

Pope Francis encouraged members of the international event’s organizing committee to be inventive in planning the gathering, which will take place on Aug. 1-6, 2023, and not just to fall back on the format of past World Youth Days.

“Do not live on the returns, on what has been done in the other meetings,” he said. “You have to create the meeting. If you are not creative, if you are not poets, this meeting will not work, it will not be original, it will be a photocopy of other meetings.”

Francis cited Bl. Carlo Acutis. “As the young Italian blessed said: each of us has to be original, not a photocopy.”


World Youth Day was established by Pope John Paul II in 1985. The multi-day gathering usually attracts hundreds of thousands of young people.

The meeting is typically held on a different continent every three years with the presence of the pope.

Pope Francis announced that the Portuguese capital would host the global Catholic gathering of young people at the closing Mass of the last international World Youth Day in Panama City in January 2019.

Lisbon, a city of 505,000 people, is around 75 miles from Fatima, one of the world’s most popular Marian pilgrimage sites.

Pope Francis said he was looking ahead to August 2023 and the event in Portugal, and he acknowledged the difficulty faced by the volunteers organizing the event from all over the world.

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“It is not easy,” he said. “It is not easy because we go from crisis to crisis.”

“We came out of a pandemic crisis, we entered an economic crisis, and now we are in the crisis of war, which is one of the worst evils that can happen.”

He said that “crises are overcome together, not alone. And crises put us to the test so that we come out better.”

Pope Francis added that he was following the planning from Rome and praying for all those involved.

“And I pray for all the young people who are going to participate, either in person or by telematic means,” he added. “I pray that this meeting may be a fruitful one. May each one of us leave better than we arrived. I ask you, please, to pray for me, because I also need you to support me with prayer.”


“See you in August,” he concluded.

Hannah Brockhaus is Catholic News Agency's senior Rome correspondent. She grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and has a degree in English from Truman State University in Missouri.