World Youth Day 2023 – Lisbon: Theme, Dates, Schedule 

world youth day

The 2023 World Youth Day will be held in Lisbon, Portugal, beginning on Tuesday, August 1, and concluding on Sunday, August 6. 

“Young people of “World Youth Day”, the Church asks you to go, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to those who are near and those who are far away. Share with them the freedom you have found in Christ. People thirst for genuine inner freedom. They yearn for the Life which Christ came to give in abundance … May you, the Catholic young people of the world, not fail him. In your hands, carry the Cross of Christ. On your lips, the words of Life. In your hearts, the saving grace of the Lord.”

St. Pope John Paul II, 1993 WYD in Denver, Colorado

Table of Contents 

What is World Youth Day?

World Youth Day is an international gathering of young people, ages 16 to 35, with the Pope. 

It takes place every two to three years in different cities all over the globe. It has a strong Catholic identity and includes a celebration of Mass with the Pope, but it’s open to all.

In addition to celebrating young people, World Youth Day is an “expression of the universal Church and a powerful moment of evangelization for the world of youth.”

Thousands and thousands of young people gather together for several days with accommodations ranging from camping to lodging in churches. More than 400,000 young people have officially registered to attend and take part in the 2023 International World Youth Day celebration in Lisbon, Portugal. 

The most highly-attended WYD was in Manila in 1995, with more than 5 million people in attendance. After celebrating Mass, Pope John Paul II had to take a helicopter to get through the crowds, trading in the popemobile.  

When is World Youth Day? 

First celebrated on Palm Sunday in 1986, the international World Youth Day celebration takes place in the summer months though not always. In 2023, World Youth Day begins on August 1 and concludes on August 6, 2023. 

The 2023 WYD celebration in Lisbon was originally planned for 2022, though the Vatican postponed the celebration due to Covid-19. 

The location and dates of the next World Youth Day, following the 2023 celebration in Lisbon, have yet to be announced, though the archdiocese of Seoul, South Korea, has said they want to host WYD in 2027. 

Travel and Preparing for World Youth Day

Attendance to WYD is free, though many pilgrims will incur travel, lodging, and other expenses during their travels as they hail from all over the world, often using multiple kinds of transportation. Some WYD pilgrimage groups are sponsored by schools, churches, or other organizations. 

Pray for your grandparents and the elderly

In the weeks preceding WYD 2023, Pope Francis calls on young people to pray for their grandparents on the World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly, which falls on July 23 near the feasts of Sts. Joachim and Anne, the grandparents of Jesus. 

To you, the young who are preparing to meet in Lisbon or to celebrate World Youth Day in your own countries, I would ask: before you set out on your journey, visit your grandparents or an elderly person who lives alone! Their prayers will protect you and you will carry in your heart the blessing of that encounter. I ask you, the elderly among us, to accompany by your prayers the young people about to celebrate World Youth Day. Those young people are God’s answer to your prayers, the fruits of all that you have sown, the sign that God does not abandon his people, but always rejuvenates them with the creativity of the Holy Spirit.

Pope Francis

Preparing for pilgrimage 

Like other pilgrimages, prayer before the journey is an important part of the experience. To encounter others in Christ, we must first carry Christ within our own hearts. As Pope Francis encourages, “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.”

Consider praying with Hallow before your journey or praying for someone you know attending WYD should you not be in attendance. As the theme of the week centers around Mary’s haste – her joyful rush to share God’s love with others – you might consider praying alongside her with the Rosary or other Marian prayers. 

Another way to intentionally prepare your heart is to pray a novena for your own intention or for the intention of a friend or family member. The Surrender Novena, Sacred Heart Novena, or Mary, Undoer of Knots novenas are all beautiful ways to draw near to Jesus for 9 days. 

World Youth Day History

St. Pope John Paul II and World Youth Day

Established by St. John Paul II in his papacy, the first official World Youth Day was in 1986 in Rome, Italy. The inspiration for its institution began two years earlier, at the close of the Holy Year of Redemption in 1984. JPII invited an International Jubilee of youth to celebrate Palm Sunday in St. Peter’s Square, and over 300,000 youth responded. 

The following year (1985) was also the U.N.’s International Year of the Youth, and JPII again invited young people to Rome and the Vatican. He also wrote the apostolic letter Dilecti Amici, meaning “Dear Friends,” addressing it to the “youth of the world.” 

Since man is the fundamental and at the same time the daily way of the Church, it is easy to understand why the Church attributes special importance to the period of youth as a key stage in the life of every human being. You young people are the ones who embody this youth: you are the youth of the nations and societies, the youth of every family and of all humanity; you are also the youth of the Church. We are all looking to you, for all of us, thanks to you, in a certain sense continually become young again. So your youth is not just your own property, your personal property or the property of a generation: it belongs to the whole of that space that every man traverses in his life’s journey, and at the same time it is a special possession belonging to everyone. It is a possession of humanity itself.

St. Pope John Paul II, Dilecti Amici (March 31, 1985)

A few months after writing Dielecti Amici, JPII announced the institution of World Youth Day on December 20, 1985, for the upcoming Palm Sunday in 1986. He selected Palm Sunday as it was the day “the children of Jerusalem” met Jesus upon his entrance to Jerusalem after 40 days in the desert. 

Since then, there have been 15 International World Youth Day celebrations spanning the globe and drawing in millions of young Catholics from all over. WYD is celebrated every two or three years, though there is always a smaller celebration in Rome in the “off” years.

Past International WYD locations and themes

YearLocationTheme and scripture reference
2023Lisbon (Portugal)Mary arose and went with haste. (Luke 1:39)
2019Panama City (Panama)“I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38)
2016Krakow (Poland)“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” (Matthew 5:7)
2013Rio Di Janeiro (Brazil)Go and Make Disciples of All Nations. (Matthew 28:19)
2011Madrid (Spain)Rooted and built up in Jesus Christ, Firm in the Faith. (Colossians 2:7)
2008Sydney (Australia)Rooted and built up in Jesus Christ, Firm in the Faith. (Colossians 2:7)
2005Cologne (Germany)We have come to worship him. (Matthew 2:2)
2002Toronto (Canada)You are the salt of the earth; You are the light of the world. (Matthew 5:13-14)
2000Rome (Italy)The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. (John 1:14)
1997Paris (France)Teacher, where are you staying? Come and see. (John 1:38-39)
1995Manila (Philippines)As the Father sent me, so am I sending you. (John 20:21)
1993Denver (Colorado)I came that they might have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)
1991Częstochowa (Poland)You have received a spirit of sonship. (Romans 8:15)
1989Santiago de Compostela (Spain)I am the way, the truth, and the life. (John 14:6)
1987Buenos Aires (Argentina)We ourselves have known and put our faith in God’s love towards ourselves. (1 John 4:16)
1986Rome (Italy)Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you. (1 Peter 3:15)

World Youth Day 2023 Theme

The 2023 World Youth Day theme comes from the Gospel of Luke. After the Angel Gabriel announced to her that she would bear the Son of God (the Annunciation), Mary went to visit her cousin Elizabeth (the Visitation). Pope Francis reflected

“Mary could have focused on herself and her own worries and fears about her new condition. Instead, she entrusted herself completely to God. Her thoughts turned to Elizabeth. She got up and went forth, into the world of life and movement.” 

Pope Francis

And she went quickly as a pilgrim and a beacon of hope. Thus, the 2023 WYD theme is “Mary arose and went with haste” (Lk 1:39). 

Mary did not turn inward but outward to encounter her cousin Elizabeth, following God’s desire for her life. 

“In these troubling times, when our human family, already tested by the trauma of the pandemic, is racked by the tragedy of war, Mary shows to all of us, and especially to you, young people like herself, the path of proximity and encounter. I hope and I firmly believe that the experience many of you will have in Lisbon next August will represent a new beginning for you, the young, and – with you – for humanity as a whole.”

Pope Francis 

World Youth Day Dates and Pope Francis Schedule

World Youth Day in 2023 will take place from August 1-6.

Pope Francis will arrive on August 2 and be present at World Youth Day until his departure on August 6. View the live stream of St. Peter’s Square here to follow Pope Francis’ apostolic journey to Lisbon on August 2. 

The following events highlight the Holy Father’s day-by-day schedule:

  • August 2 – 10:45: Welcome ceremony at Palácio Nacional de Belém
  • August 3 – 17:45: Welcome ceremony at Colina do Encontro (Parque Eduardo VII)
  • August 4 – 18:00 Stations of the Cross at Colina do Encontro (Parque Eduardo VII)
  • August 5 – 9:30 Rosary at Chapel of Apparitions of the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima
  • August 5 – 20:45 Vigil with young people at “Campo da Graça” (Parque Tejo)
  • August 6 – 9:00 World Youth Day Mass at “Campo da Graça” (Parque Tejo)
  • August 6 – 17:50 Farewell Ceremony at Figo Maduro Air Base

Find more details on the Offical Schedule for the Pope’s Visit to Lisbon here

World Youth Day Theme Song

In tandem with the 2023 WYD theme, the official theme song of World Youth Day Lisbon is “Há Pressa No Ar,” which translates to “There’s a Rush in the Air.” The song was released in January and is inspired by the Gospel passage of Mary rushing to meet Elizabeth. 

Recorded in Portuguese and in an international version featuring Portuguese, English, Spanish, French, and Italian, the song was written by Fr. João Paulo Vaz with musical arrangements by musician Carlos Garcia. 

World Youth Day Official App

There’s an official app for World Youth Day that all attendees are encouraged to download. Get it here!

World Youth Day Pilgrim Prayer

In tandem with the Marian theme of the 2023 WYD, the Official Prayer for World Youth Day calls on the intercession of Our Lady of the Visitation. Those attending World Youth Day or those joining in its celebration through prayer are invited to pray the Pilgrims’ Prayer below.

Our Lady of the Visitation, you who left in haste towards the mountain to meet Elizabeth, lead us also to meet all those who await us to deliver them the living Gospel: Jesus Christ, your Son and our Lord! We will go in a hurry, with no distraction or delay, but with readiness and joy. We will go peacefully, because those who take Christ take peace, and welldoing is the best wellbeing. Our Lady of the Visitation, with your inspiration, this World Youth Day will be the mutual celebration of the Christ we take, as You once did. Make it a time of testimony and sharing, fraternization, and giving thanks, each of us looking for the others who always wait. With you, we will continue on this path of gathering, so that our world will gather as well, in fraternity, justice and peace. Help us, Our Lady of the Visitation, to bring Christ to everyone, obeying the Father, in the love of the Spirit!

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