Breaking news: Official data from civil protection and Lisbon police confirm attendance of more than 100,000 people at the vocational meeting


The 37th World Youth Day (Lisbon, August 1-6, 2023) had a final moment of extraordinary joy in the meeting of more than seventy-five thousand young people of the Neocatechumenal Way, who came from all over the world, with the International Responsible Team of the Way, the Initiator Kiko Argüello, Father Mario Pezzi and Ascensión Romero.

From the very start of the World Youth Days (Rome 1986), Kiko and Carmen sensed that they offered the young people of the Way a great opportunity: after having gone on pilgrimage in preparation for the meetings with the Holy Father, the young people met with the local Bishop and other Bishops, to cast their nets, to make a great vocational call to the priesthood, to religious and missionary life, to form Christian families and to call the families themselves to the mission.

During the WYD pilgrimage in Cologne (2005), Kiko and Carmen also had the idea that, in addition to the prayer and listening to the Word that characterize these days, the young people should be sent on a mission to proclaim the Gospel in the cities they passed through on their itinerary.

Also this year, in Spain – the natural transit country to reach Lisbon – as well as in Portugal, thousands and thousands of boys and girls arrived in many cities and squares carrying the joy and hope of tomorrow, so that these countries do not forget their Christian roots: the very Christianity that gave them their history, their culture and everything that has made them great.

The good news of the Gospel resounded in all of these cities, the announcement of that event that shook and changed the world: the good news of Christ’s victory over death. The young people bore witness to their encounter with Jesus Christ in their own lives.

This pilgrimage converged in the various meetings with the Holy Father, Pope Francis, in the Vigil and in the participation in the final Eucharist on Sunday morning.

On the afternoon of the following day, August 7, the meeting of the 75,000 young people of the Way took place on the great promenade of Algés, presided over by the Patriarch of Lisbon, Card. Manuel José Macário do Nascimento Clemente, accompanied by the Nuncio to Portugal, Archbishop Ivo Scapolo, six other cardinals: Jean-Claude Hollerich (Luxembourg), Gérald C. Lacroix, Archbishop of Quebec (Canada), Odilo P. Scherer, Archbishop of São Paulo (Brazil), Sean P. O’Malley, Archbishop of Boston (USA), Antonio M. Rouco Varela, Archbishop Emeritus of Madrid and 47 other bishops. The Prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, Card. Kevin J. Farrell, sent Dr. Paul Metzlaff, of the “Youth Sector”, as his representative.

The Mayor, Isaltino Morais, and several members of the municipality of Oeiras, where the event took place, also honored the meeting with their presence. This is the place where, last Sunday, the Holy Father thanked and greeted the 25,000 volunteers of WYD 2023.

On the stage, together with the Cardinals and Bishops, were present the itinerant teams of the 114 nations that accompanied the young people on their pilgrimage.

Vocational Encounter WYD 2023 Lisbon – Kiko Argüello and Fr. Mario Pezzi

After the introduction and the song “I come to gather”, Kiko introduced the young people, naming their country of origin. Kiko then invited the many priests to carry the statue of Our Lady of Fatima in procession to the stage, while the song “Shlom lej Mariam” – the words in Aramaic that the Angel addressed to Mary (“Hail Mary, Hail Mary”!) – was sung. On the other side of the stage was the large cross and an image of the Servant of God, Carmen Hernández Barrera, who, with Kiko, initiated the Way and whose cause of beatification was opened by the Archdiocese of Madrid last December, and who was remembered several times during the meeting.

This was followed by the proclamation of the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, the announcement made by Peter on the day of Pentecost, which was followed by the announcement of Kiko’s kerygma: “I announce to you news that is now fulfilled: the very divine essence, the divine substance revealed and manifested in Christ, is that God is Love towards you, total Love”.

Kiko invited the young people to raise their eyes to the large cross on the stage and asked them a question: “Do you know what this means: God loves you! God cannot deny himself. The divine nature is precisely that: he wants to be one in you, he wants to be in you. God is present in all creation, but he wants to be in you, not as he is in creation, but in the Holy Spirit, as a person, totally in you, becoming one with you, so that you may participate in the Mystery of the Trinity, which is Love. This Love regenerates you, makes you part of the divine nature and adopts you as Son. This divine Love in you makes you capable of loving”.

The cry: “Christ is risen”, launched several times by Kiko, was truly moving, to which the 75,000 young people responded: “He is truly risen!”

The Liturgy of the Word concluded with the solemn singing of the Gospel of the day: the multiplication of the loaves and fishes (Mt 14:13-21) and the homily of the President of the meeting, the Patriarch of Lisbon.

María Ascensión Romero

The third moment of the meeting, that of vocational calls, began with the song “Carmen ’63” and the presentation of Kiko. Father Mario Pezzi addressed a word to the young people inviting them not to be afraid to offer their lives to the Lord, recounting his own experience of more than fifty years of joyful presbyterate, lived on the five continents; Ascensión Romero – missionary in Russia for many years – who has been part of the Responsible Team since 2018, recalled the Pope’s words at the end of Sunday’s homily: “Do not be afraid”, encouraging young people to abandon themselves to the Lord.

At this point, after a moment of silence, the occasion of the vocational calls was realized, fruit of these days lived. First of all, Kiko invited the young men who felt called to the priesthood to stand up. To the song “I come to gather”, words taken from the 66th chapter of the prophecy of Isaiah, which announces the work of the Lord who will come to gather all nations, more than 2,000 approached the stage. These young people will begin a process of vocational discernment in their dioceses. Secondly, the call was made to the girls who feel the vocation to the contemplative life or to the mission: 1,500 stood up and sang “You are beautiful” as they approached the stage. They too will be accompanied by their priests and catechists for a process of discernment.

The President invoked the Holy Spirit upon the young people who responded to this call and went up to the stage, and each one received the blessing of the Patriarch and the Bishops present.

The meeting concluded with a hymn to Mary: “A great sign appeared in heaven” and the Patriarch’s blessing.

The meaning of this event, of these fruits, cannot be understood in its true sense without the journey of faith that has prepared them: it is not the emotion of a moment, but the action of God working in their hearts through a serious and long Christian initiation, for years, lived in their communities, within their parishes.

Vocational Gathering WYD 2023 Lisbon – Entrance Procession with Our Lady of Fatima