On Monday 31 August, Melbourne pilgrims travelling to the 16th international World Youth Day converged on Lisbon, Portugal, for a Mass celebrated together with Archbishop Peter A Comensoli, the first time the nearly 600 pilgrims have been together since their commissioning Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral.

Lisbon marks the final overseas destination for the Holy Land, Italian Way, Emerging Leaders and Direct to Lisbon pilgrimages.

Pilgrims journeying through the Holy Land in the footsteps of Jesus spent their last days there exploring Jerusalem, walking along the Via Dolorosa and praying the Stations of the Cross on the way to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the place of Christ’s crucifixion and burial.

The Emerging Leaders and Italian Way pilgrims ended their time in Italy by exploring Assisi, the birthplaces of St Francis and St Clare. They visited the basilicas dedicated to the saints, and walked to the Hermitage, where St Francis and his brothers would retreat for silent prayer. Pilgrims also prayed at the San Damiano, where St Francis heard the Lord say to him, ‘Repair my church,’ and which would later become the home of the Order of St Clare.

In Lisbon, pilgrims had the opportunity to explore the magnificent city on what would be the last quiet day before World Youth Day begins on Tuesday 1 August. Among the sites they visited were Lisbon Cathedral, the relics of St Anthony of Padua at St Anthony’s Church, and the Praça do Comércio, one of the largest plazas in Portugal, facing the harbour.

In the evening, the pilgrims gathered at the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary of Fatima for Mass.

In his homily, Archbishop Comensoli reflected on the saint of the day, St Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus. Drawing from St Ignatius’ prayer known as the Suscipe, which ends with the words, ‘Give me only your love and your grace, that is enough for me,’ the Archbishop said:

Grace is the gift of the Holy Spirit, first given at creation, and at our creation. Grace is life; grace is our life. Grace—charis—is all we need to live.

‘You are God’s gift, his grace,’ he said. ‘Might you accept this? Might you believe this? Might you receive this? … As God’s gift, his grace, your life is a gift, no matter how it might feel, no matter what might transpire. You are a gift, God’s charis, to be received and then given, to be accepted and paid forward.’

Tuesday 1 August marks the official beginning of World Youth Day 2023, where hundreds of thousands of Catholics from around the world will gather to encounter Jesus and experience their faith anew. There will be opportunities for workshops, faith-formation sessions, festivals and further exploration of the city. Pilgrims will also hear from Pope Francis, who will be there from Wednesday 2 August to the final Mass on Saturday 6.