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Pope Francis hopes that World Youth Day in Lisbon will be a “seed for the world’s future”

(ZENIT News / Rome, 07.27.2023).- “When I go to the church in my neighborhood, I see only old people. Is the Church only for old people?” This is the question directed to Pope Francis that opens this Pope Video which coincides with World Youth Day. His response is direct: “If it becomes something for old people, it will die…. The Church needs young people so it doesn’t grow old.”

The video with the Holy Father’s new prayer intention, which he entrusts to the entire Catholic Church through the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, and was created in collaboration with the Lisbon 2023 WYD Foundation and the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, is about young people and World Youth Day. Pope Francis’ message emphasizes his invitation that young people quickly take the path of bearing joyful witness to the Gospel.

The questions from young people

There is a special feature in this month’s video. Pope Francis responds to several young people from different continents who pose questions in various languages. Youth from the Philippines, Brazil and the Ivory Coast (members of the Eucharistic Youth Movement, the youth branch of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, with 1,700,000 members in 60 countries) ask Pope Francis unfiltered questions: whether the Church is just for “old people”; why he chose Mary as the theme for World Youth Day; what is the Pope’s own hope for this international meeting of young people in Portugal. 

The Pope’s responses

Replying at a distance, Pope Francis’ responses are quite powerful. He explains that Mary’s attitude is a lesson for all her peers, for “as soon as Mary knew she was going to be the mother of God, she didn’t stay there taking a selfie or showing off.” Rather, “The first thing she did was to set out on a journey, in haste, to serve, to help.” Later, he confides his dream “to see a seed for the world’s future,” a world in which love (at a time when “we are at war”) and joy (“because if we Christians have no joy, we are not credible, no one will believe us”) are at the center.

The event itself

According to Bishop Américo Aguiar, President of the Lisbon 2023 WYD Foundation, “the meeting is essentially a meeting of young people with the Pope, an encounter of young people with young people, and an encounter of each young person with the person of the living Christ. On this journey, I expect everything and expect nothing. Expecting everything, I hope that all of the young people will be touched by the Pope’s words and that each young person has an encounter with the Lord of Life. To expect nothing is to trust totally, to give all that I have and am, expecting nothing in return. I will strive each day, but most especially in the last days, for the complete detachment of one who knows it is not possible to carry out this immense task without the efficacious presence of the Risen Jesus.”

Back after the pandemic

Father João Chagas, who heads the Youth Office for the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life, says, “It is good to be able to pray together, to meditate on an intergenerational dialogue, a theme dear to our beloved Pope Francis. Already in his message to youth in 2017, he recalled, ‘With good reason you want to “soar”, your heart is full of great dreams, but you need the wisdom and the vision of the elderly. Spread your wings and fly, but also realize that you need to rediscover your roots and to take up the torch from those who have gone before. To build a meaningful future, you need to know and appreciate the past.’ Precisely to promote this integrated culture of encounter, after the horrible experience of the pandemic, of social isolation, I hope this WYD might be an opportunity for the young people of the entire world to meet each other once again, with the hope of living in times of peace.”

The Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network and WYD 2023

Father Frédéric Fornos S.J., International Director of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, highlights the presence of the pontifical work in WYD: “This month’s Pope Video is one of the signs of the presence of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network in World Youth Day in Lisbon. In fact, already as of 2020, preparations for this event have been accompanied by prayer through the Click To Pray app, which is both the Pope’s official prayer app and that of the meeting in Lisbon, regularly dedicating a prayer for WYD 2023 on the 23rd of each month. During the course of this event, from July 30 to August 6, Click To Pray will make available to WYD participants, and to those who cannot be physically present, but who want to accompany WYD by praying long-distance, three daily meditations in both text and audio formats, available in five languages: Spanish, Portuguese, English, Italian and French. In addition, members of the Eucharistic Youth Movement (EYM), our youth branch, will also be present in Lisbon. We have created a team of EYM reporters who will help EYM youth from all over the world to participate, both in their own countries through local events, and online.”