By Justin McLellan
LISBON, Portugal (CNS) — Young people were going to confession on street corners and park benches throughout Lisbon during World Youth Day, but in the 150 plywood confessionals set up in Vasco da Gama Garden three of them found themselves face to face with Pope Francis.
Donning a purple stole, the pope heard their confessions Aug. 4 in the riverside garden, which has been converted into “Reconciliation Park” and lined with white confessionals built by inmates from three Portuguese prisons.
While a confessional with a white chair bearing the papal insignia and visible to the press had been set up, Pope Francis opted for one of the regular, more private, confessionals instead.
The pope sat across from Francisco, 21, from Spain, followed by Yesvi, 33, from Guatemala and Samuel, 19, from Italy. The three confessions lasted some 10 minutes all together before Pope Francis left the area in a wheelchair and waving to the crowd gathered nearby.
Before going to the garden, Pope Francis met privately at the Vatican nunciature with Maria da Conceição Brito Mendonça, a 106-year-old Portuguese woman, who was born May 13, 1917 — the day of the first Fátima apparition. He also met with Edna Pina Lopes Rodrigues, a young woman with a serious illness; the pope had sent a message “of affection and prayer” to her in June. The pope was scheduled to travel to Fátima and pray with sick young people the following morning.
Priests ministering to pilgrims in “Reconciliation Park” were offering the sacrament of reconciliation in 50 different spoken languages and various sign languages.