Pope gets an electrifying World Youth Day welcome and urges fighting for economic justice, climate

by | Aug 4, 2023 | Religion

LISBON, Portugal (AP) — Hundreds of thousands of flag-waving young people from around the globe gave Pope Francis a raucous welcome to the World Youth Day festival in Portugal’s capital Thursday, in a sign of youthful support for the 86-year-old pontiff and his calls for inclusivity and economic justice.In a display of enthusiasm not seen since the early years of Francis’ decade-old papacy, teenagers and young adults thronged a downtown Lisbon park for the opening ceremony of the Catholic jamboree. Pilgrims ran alongside as his popemobile made languid loops through the crowd and a smiling Francis basked in their cheers.
The pope, who was hospitalized twice this year, had said he hoped to be “rejuvenated” by his five-day trip to Portugal, and it appeared as if the sun-baked crowd delivered.
Organizers estimated some 500,000 pilgrims attended the music-and-dance filled World Youth Day opening ceremony in Lisbon’s Eduardo VII park, a figure that was expected to more than double during the festival’s coming days.
Volunteers with huge water packs on their backs doled out water to keep the youngsters hydrated, an increasing concern given temperatures are expected to soar to 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) by Sunday, when Francis closes out the festival with a final outdoor Mass.
Francis is in Portugal through the weekend to preside over the jamboree that St. John Paul II launched in the 1980s to encourage young Catholics in their faith. The Argentine Jesuit has picked up John Paul’s mantle with gusto as he seeks to inspire the next generation to rally behind his key social justice and environmental priorities.
On Thursday, he emphasized his call for the Cathol …

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