WYD Diary – Day One

On Day One of her World Youth Day diary, Luegi Lopes, our Digital Media Officer, shares her joy at being among so many faith-filled young people from around the globe.

Luegi Lopes, our Digital Media Officer, is in Lisbon experiencing her first World Youth Day. This is her diary.

Tuesday, 1 August 2023

Opening Mass

I arrived in Lisbon not really knowing what to expect, having never attended a World Youth Day before. I knew there would be a huge element of joy and celebration and that’s exactly what I saw on the first day. The streets were packed with pilgrim groups, proudly waving their flags, singing and chanting in their native languages, expressing joy and mingling with one another. In every direction you can hear the chatter of lively conversations. You will most likely hear the question “where are you from?” followed by a proud declaration of one’s home country and a warm embrace. Avenida da Liberdade is filled with speakers, music fills the street as pilgrims celebrate together.

On the first day, I arrived at the hotel, dropped my bags and headed straight over to the Media Centre. I was taken by the vast room, filled with media professionals from all over the world, typing away on their laptops, interviewing people and recording, which really made me realise how important and special World Youth Day really is.

Having caught up with work emails, I headed out to take a look at Parque Eduardo VII – the main park in Lisbon where the opening ceremony would be held later that same evening. At that point, the park was empty and lots of people were working hard to get everything in place for the beautiful Mass that would follow. I had some time to kill before the opening ceremony so grabbed some lunch and headed into Belem, aka the city of joy!


Getting the train was not easy, as you can imagine, it was super-packed. More singing, more dancing and more sharing of stories during the journey. Having arrived at Belem, I wandered into a huge queue for outdoor Confessions. Confession is widely available for all pilgrims.

Next stop was the main square, where you can see a plethora of booths – spaces to chat, learn and grow. I didn’t have much time, so made mental note to return the next day.

Lisbon is known for its delicious food, so I grabbed some food and then straight to Parque Eduardo VII for the Opening Mass.

Now, I knew WYD was a big deal, but, wow, I don’t think I’ve ever been surrounded by so many people – a sea of flags, contagious joy and an abundance of smiles. It’s hard to describe the feeling in words, but the best I can do is say I felt extremely happy and calm in the midst of all the chaos. Knowing I could get right to the front, I began to make my way – I was stopped so many times, pilgrims giving me hugs, asking where I was from – it was beautiful.

Mass began, the whole crowd was moved. The most beautiful part was holding hands with an elderly woman throughout the Mass, who had problems balancing when she was standing up so asked me to hold her hand, this made me quite emotional as I thought about my grandma and how much she would have loved to be there, it also made me think about what Pope Francis said in his message for the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly. The Holy Father stressed how maintaining quality connections with the older generations has priceless value for the young.

The Cardinal of Lisbon, Archbishop Manuel Clemente, spoke so beautifully, welcoming everyone to Lisbon and encouraging us to go with haste as Mary did, rise up, and enjoy this special occasion. For thousands of young Catholics, it marked the start of a very special journey of faith.

I left the Mass feeling inspired and excited for the week ahead. What a way to end the day!