WYD Diary – Day Five

On Day Five of her World Youth Day diary, Luegi Lopes, our Digital Media Officer, swaps gifts with fellow media professionals before the most incredible and profound experience of joining 1.8 million pilgrims in silent prayer before the Lord in Adoration.

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

Saturday, 5 August 2023

I began Day Five walking to Igreja de Santo António de Lisboa for Mass – Saint Anthony’s Church. As I said in one of my previous diary entries, Saint Anthony was my great-grandmother’s favourite saint. Whenever I’d lose something, she’d always remind me to pray to Saint Anthony and ask for his guidance.

On my walk to the church, I saw several pilgrims carrying camping equipment, ready to make the pilgrimage to Parque Tejo where the evening vigil was to take place – an emblematic feature of any World Youth Day! As always, Lisbon’s streets were filled with energy, joy and excitement. The Italians had hired minivans and pilgrims were popping out of them at regular intervals to wave flags and yell “Viva Italia!” while the drivers beeped their horns. As a Portuguese speaker with lots of family in Lisbon, many locals would stop and ask me questions, curious to find out about the pilgrims’ experiences. At St Anthony’s, I met a huge group of Spanish pilgims, tents in hand also ready to go to the vigil. I asked what they were most looking forward to – “deep prayer,” they said. “World Youth Day has really encouraged us to pray more, we feel the power of prayer.” At Mass, I asked Saint Anthony to help me find the time to pray more.

Journalists’ Gifts

I had to make a quick stop at my hotel to check-out, tidy up, and make sure I was also packed and ready for the night ahead. Next stop was the media centre. It was much busier than usual as journalists filled the room with their equipment, prepping before heading out to Parque Tejo. On the screens, we could see hundreds of thousands of pilgrims walking in the scorching heat to the park where they would spend the night in prayer. This was probably the first time I properly ‘bonded’ with other media professionals. On the other days I was very embedded with the pilgrims. We had enough time to share our own unique experiences of covering WYD whilst getting to know each another a little better. It was a common thing for the journalists to swap small gifts from their home countries. I was given a necklace from Ghana, a keychain from Madagascar and a sticker from Mauritius! There seemed to be a consensus amoung those who had covered several World Youth Days that they were getting better and better.

So, to the main order of the day. Off to Parque Tejo on the media bus, which was absolutely packed! During the drive, I was taken aback at just how many people were walking to the park. The entire bridge was filled with pilgrims, singing, dancing and chanting. When I arrived, I walked around the main stage to take it all in – a beautiful setting right next to the sea. As the sun started to sink lower, you could feel how special this time of prayer and Adoration with Pope Francis would be. The excitement was palpable as it was announced Pope Francis was on his way. For the third time, I managed to get close enough to see the Pope. I was in awe each time.

1.8 million fall silent in prayer

The evening vigil began. A dominant theme, once again, was how we can deal with the many temptations of the world to get closer to God. Pope Francis spoke to us, encouraging us to never look down on anyone. The only time you should ever look down on someone, he emphasised, is when you are offering to lift them up.

Then perhaps the most unforgettable and awe-inspiring moments of my first World Youth Day happened. Adoration. 1.8 million pilgrims brought to silent prayer in front of the Lord. I’d never experienced anything quite like that before.

Image: With thanks to the Diocese of East Anglia. You can see more of East Anglia’s images on Flickr.