International News

Pope Closes World Youth Day Expressing ‘Great Sorrow’ for War in Ukraine

Pope Francis, accompanied by Cardinal Manuel Clemente of Lisbon, Portugal, arrives at Tejo Park in Lisbon for the closing World Youth Day Mass Aug. 6, 2023. (Photo: CNS/Lola Gomez)

By Elise Ann Allen

LISBON (Crux) — Pope Francis, having not mentioned the war in Ukraine throughout his 5-day visit to Portugal, offered explicit prayers for peace in the country on his final day, while also telling young people they are signs of peace for the world.

After celebrating the closing Mass for World Youth Day (WYD) in Lisbon Sunday, Aug. 6, Pope Francis offered thoughts and prayers for those who could not attend the gathering because of war and armed conflict, saying, “There are many of them in our world.

“In thinking of this continent, I feel great sorrow for beloved Ukraine, which continues to suffer greatly,” he said, telling youth to “allow me, as an older person, to share with you young people a dream that I carry within me: It is the dream of peace, the dream of young people praying for peace, living in peace, and building a peaceful future.”

Ahead of leading young people in praying the traditional Angelus prayer, he urged them to place “the future of humanity” into Mary’s hands and to continue to pray for peace as they return home.

“What is more, you are a sign of peace for the world, showing how different nationalities, languages, and histories can unite instead of divide. You are the hope of a different world,” he said.

Pope Francis’ prayer for Ukraine came after opting not to mention the country during his three-hour visit Saturday morning to the Marian shrine of Fatima, where Mary made repeated apparitions to three shepherd children in 1917.

Many observers had expected him to deliver a firm appeal for peace and an end to the war between Russia and Ukraine while there, given the shrine’s historic ties to the geopolitics of the region, as one of Mary’s warnings was about the rise of Soviet communism and a request that Russia be consecrated to her immaculate heart.

However, the pope while there tossed his prepared remarks aside and did not mention Ukraine, war, or peace, offering instead a reflection on the Virgin Mary’s spirit of ready assistance to others. However, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni later said the pontiff, while praying silently in front of a statue of Our Lady of Fatima, had “prayed with pain for peace” in the world.

In his Angelus remarks, the pope stressed the need to continue “to share and to give, to bear witness joyfully and eagerly to the good that God has poured into our hearts” as they return home.

He thanked all those involved in organizing WYD, from local church authorities to Vatican officials, volunteers, and even “those who watched over World Youth Day from above, namely the patron saints of the event: especially John Paul II, who brought these World Youth Days to life.”

He told young people that God sees how good they are, and he encouraged them to treasure their experience over the past week.

“Hold fast to the memory of these days, remembering the best moments. Then, when the inevitable times of fatigue and discouragement come, and perhaps the temptation to give up or close in on yourselves, relive the experiences and the graces of these days,” he said.

Pope Francis told the youths to never forget that they belong to the people of God “walking in the joy of the Gospel” and offered a special shout-out to those from sub-Saharan Africa who could not attend, but who participated in gatherings organized by their local bishops’ conference in Tangier, Morocco.