In a historic first for the UK Goan Chaplaincy, thirty-three Goans residing in London, including two priests, participated in World Youth Day 2023 in Lisbon, Portugal. Pope Francis will gather with over a million young people to celebrate faith and foster Christian fellowship from August 1-6.
Pope Francis will celebrate the final missioning Mass on August 6. WYD pilgrims will partake in a vigil on August 5 at Campo da Graca, an open-air venue prepared for the occasion.
The spontaneous encounters with people of different nationalities and ethnicities give World Youth Day its unique character.
"It was a surreal experience meeting Papa Francisco. I have always seen him on TV or in photos but never in real life," said Christel Botelho from Santo Estevam, Goa.
Christel and the group waited for three hours only to have a glimpse of the Pope on August 2.
The seventeen-year-old Christel and a few Goan Chaplaincy UK group members secured the front row to see the Pope during the welcome ceremony. The wonderful experience made young adults like Christel cry "literal tears of joy and happiness."
Francisca Araujo, Event Volunteer
The experience of WYD led Rizia De Oliveira from Merces to send a message to the youth to grab opportunities to celebrate faith at a global level. Astra D’Costa says even a glimpse of the Pope is mystical.
Maria Fernandes is grateful to the Goan Chaplaincy for providing such an opportunity to young people. She and the others are looking forward to the missioning Mass with the Pope.
Adeline Botelho from Mapusa said it is great to see how Papa Francisco brings happiness to young people. Like Adeline, it is an unforgettable moment for people who have witnessed the event.
Fr Patrick D’Souza SFX, the Goan chaplain in the UK, Fr Feroz Fernandes SFX, and Melrick Fernandes, leader of the World Youth Dance Crew, led the Goan Chaplaincy delegation.
The group arrived in Porto on July 27 to engage in the Days in the Diocese programme, which served as a preparation for the main event and moved to Lisbon on July 31 with a spiritual visit to the shrine at Fatima.
The day starts with Rise Up Meetings – talks on important issues. The City of Joy is a venue for Forgiveness Park (confessionals), One2One sessions, Talks of Joy, Testimonies and Vocational Fair with different charity-based organisations showcasing their mission. The Youth Festival includes cinema, conferences, religious events, exhibitions, WYD sports, museums, music, theatre and dance.
"We wanted to provide young UK Goan youth in the UK with the opportunity to experience the celebration of faith on a global stage alongside their peers," explains Fr Patrick D'Souza.
Local Catholic families hosted the youth in Lisbon and Porto, experiencing the unique hospitality of the Portuguese people. Despite the language barrier, communication is facilitated with the help of translation technology, allowing for meaningful interactions.
"We will never look at our city (Lisbon) the same way as before," says Francisca Araujo, event volunteer. "We gave God a home in our city."