Pope Francis Arrives in Portugal for World Youth Day Amidst Sexual Abuse Scandal
Pope Francis is set to arrive in Portugal for the XXXVII World Youth Day, a highly anticipated event that brings together hundreds of thousands of young people from around the world. Often referred to as “the Catholic Woodstock,” the event aims to form young Catholics in their teens or early 20s and is held every two or three years in a different city. This year’s World Youth Day is especially significant as it marks the first gathering since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Preparations for the event have been underway, with two stages set up to accommodate the large number of participants. Masses, vigils, and various social and religious gatherings will take place, providing a space for young Catholics to come together and celebrate their faith. The Vatican has reported that approximately 330,000 young people have registered for the event, but Portuguese authorities expect the attendance to surpass one million.
However, the youth event takes place amidst the backdrop of the Catholic Church’s ongoing sexual abuse scandal. Recently, a Portuguese commission revealed that over 70 years, at least 4,815 minors were sexually abused by clergy. In response, the abuse awareness group “This Is Our Memorial” plans to raise awareness about clergy sexual abuse by putting up outdoor signs. Additionally, a separate protest group has organized a demonstration in Lisbon to demand accountability and justice.
Addressing the issue of sexual abuse, Lisbon patriarch Manuel Clemente emphasized the Church’s commitment to addressing the issue at a news conference. It is expected that Pope Francis will meet privately with abuse victims during his visit, although the Vatican has not yet confirmed this meeting. Any announcement would likely be made after the event to protect the privacy of the victims.
The young participants of the World Youth Day will be accommodated in various locations, including schools, gyms, fire stations, and with local families. Remarkably, many attendees plan to sleep outside on the night before the closing Mass in Lisbon’s Parque Tejo, reflecting their dedication and enthusiasm for the event.
Prime Minister Antonio Costa has described World Youth Day as “the biggest international event” Portugal has ever hosted, and the country is preparing to welcome the Pope and the multitude of participants with open arms. As part of his trip, Pope Francis will also make a stop at Fatima, a highly significant pilgrimage site where the Church believes the Madonna appeared to three shepherd children in 1917. Approximately half a million people are expected to gather there to witness the Pope’s visit.
The stage is set for an awe-inspiring and potentially transformative World Youth Day as Pope Francis arrives in Portugal. Amidst the Church’s ongoing sexual abuse scandal, the event offers an opportunity for reflection, healing, and renewal as young Catholics from around the world come together to celebrate their faith and engage in meaningful dialogue with their spiritual leader.
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