By Christopher White, The Tablet’s National Correspondent
PANAMA CITY, Panama – As was widely expected, Lisbon, Portugal has been selected to host the next World Youth Day, which is slated to take place in July 2022.
“Nos vemos en Portugal,” declared Cardinal Kevin Farrell at Sunday’s closing World Youth Day Mass, the pope’s final event with pilgrims.
Cardinal Farrell is prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Laity, Marriage, and Family, whose department is in charge of overseeing World Youth Day planning.
Upon news of the announcement, LeopolDina Simões who previously worked as coordinator for the Social Communication Center of the Fátima Sanctuary in Portugal, told The Tablet that she believes “World Youth Day in Lisbon will be a unique opportunity to make known the Portuguese Catholic reality to the world.”
“The Portuguese will also be able to witness one of the richest Catholic events in the world, in spiritual and cultural terms, because there are always countless young people coming from different cultures and countries, all with the same faith in God and trust and connection with the pope,” she said.
Simões, who has worked in Panama as part of the international communications team, said that Portugal is no stranger to hosting large-scale events, and so welcoming throngs of pilgrims to the country will not be a problem.
“It will be a success for the Church and for Portugal,” she said.
Maria Margarida Patrocinio, a 30-year-old from Lisbon who served as a volunteer in Panama, told The Tablet that the selection of Portugal as the next World Youth Day country is a gift to Portuguese speakers throughout the world, from Brazil to Mozambique to Macau.
She said that while the country is deeply Catholic, “young people need something to awaken and ignite the faith.”
“When the Portuguese young people encounter pilgrims from all over the word, as I have here in Panama, they will be inspired to reconnect with the faith we all share,” she continued.
Portugal had long been rumored to be the next city to host the Vatican-backed youth festival, as Cardinal Manuel Clemente of Lisbon, who is also president of the Portuguese Episcopal Conference (CEP), had already confirmed that the CEP had applied to serve as the host city.
In addition, the original statue of Our Lady of Fatima traveled to Panama for the 2019 World Youth Day, marking the first time it left Portugal since 2000.
Although this will mark the first time the traditionally Catholic country has played host to World Youth Day, Pope John Paul II visited Portugal a record four times during his pontificate, and Pope Benedict XVI visited in 2010.
Pope Francis also visited Portugal in 2017 to mark the 100th anniversary of the Virgin Mary’s appearance at Fatima.
As Pope Francis has frequently discussed his own mortality and is cautious not to promise his own appearance at the next World Youth Day. Yet, as he told the youth gathered in Krakow in 2016, the successor of Peter, whomever he may be at the time, will be present.
Closing out his remarks to the young people of Panama, the pope gave his final marching orders: “The venue for the next World Youth Day has already been announced. I ask you not to let the fervor of these days grow cold.”
“Go back to your parishes and communities, to your families and your friends, and share this experience, so that others can resonate with the strength and enthusiasm that is yours,” he said. “With Mary, keep saying ‘yes’ to the dream that God has sown in you. And, please, do not forget to pray for me.”