What signals does World Youth Day in Lisbon send?
The Catholic World Youth Day began in Lisbon on Tuesday evening with the opening mass. Pope Francis plans to visit the event from Wednesday until its conclusion on Sunday. The run-up to WYD saw considerable criticism, especially in Portugal itself, of the high costs of hosting the mass event. Europe’s commentators voice high expectations and serious doubts.
An oasis of hope
Correio da Manhã is delighted by the many young visitors in Lisbon:
“For these few days Portugal has become the country of youth. Many young people are coming to our country, young people who bring the right values: devotion, exchange and conviviality. In a word, young people with a sense of generosity. In a time of moral relativism, a lack of communication due to the horror of social media and excessive inter-generational antagonism, World Youth Day is an oasis that we should praise, take advantage of and enjoy.”
Like a UN General Assembly for youth
World Youth Day should send out an international message of peace, insists Avvenire, a paper closely affiliated with the Catholic Church.
“While the world looks on helplessly as the war spills blood on European soil and there are people who seem resigned to the inevitability of weapons, the Pope and the youth show us that another way is possible. ... In Lisbon representatives will gather from 200 countries and all five continents. It’s like a UN General Assembly but with the cheerful faces of the young and the desire to put the teachings of [Pope Francis’s third encyclical] Fratelli tutti into practice. ... This is all the more urgent now that the ‘third world war’ about which the Pope frequently warns us risks becoming an all-out catastrophe.”
The fire service does not belong in the city in summer
Journalist Daniel Oliveira is deeply critical of the mass gathering in Lisbon in the middle of the summer:
“Is promoting Lisbon as a mass tourist destination really still a priority? So much so that we are prepared to throw millions at it and put other economic activities in the city on hold? And let’s not forget the other expenses: the fire service which, right the middle of the fire season, is on duty in places where there is no fire. Security forces who are being dispatched to the capital and will be absent elsewhere. Overstretching the state health system at a particularly difficult time. ... What purpose does it serve other than the opportunity for a few politicians to have their photo taken standing next to the Pope?”
Hardly a rush at the gates
The organisers may be hoping for more than a million visitors but considerably fewer tickets have been sold in advance. The final number of participants will only be known at the end, but Tygodnik Powszechny is already doing the maths:
“Although it may seem impressive to have 600,000 pilgrims in Lisbon, the current event is in fact one of the least attended World Youth Days. Nearly six times as many people came to Francis’ meeting with young people in Poland in 2016. ... It’s hard to say exactly why numbers are so low. For many, the main reason was economic. Inflation, rising fuel prices and the high cost of airline tickets — which have reached astronomical prices this holiday season — have certainly discouraged many from attending.”