On Thursday 4 August, the Archdiocese of Melbourne hosted a Winter Fiesta on the grounds of St Patrick’s Cathedral—an opportunity to shake off the winter chills and enjoy the company of Catholics from across the Archdiocese with live music and delicious food. The event also launched the Archdiocese’s pilgrimage to World Youth Day 2023, this time in Portugal.

The night began with 6.30 Holy Hour in the Cathedral, something that has taken place every Thursday night since World Youth Day 2000. More than 400 young people from Melbourne’s schools, parishes and communities gathered before the Blessed Sacrament, and many priests, religious, teachers and leaders of parish communities joined them in their prayer and celebration.

Holy Hour was followed by a gathering outside, where Archbishop Peter A Comensoli personally invited those gathered to join him in Portugal in 2023. During his address, the Archbishop reflected on his own experiences of World Youth Day in the past.

While he was part of the first ever diocesan group from Australia to go to a World Youth Day—from Wollongong—Archbishop Comensoli’s most prominent World Youth Day memory is of attending the 1997 World Youth Day in Paris as a young priest, and of being surrounded by more than 5000 other young priests during Mass. This moment left a deep impression on him.

It wasn’t just because it was a gathering of likeminded people, he said, but because ‘we as Christians, as disciples of Jesus, were together, and we were wanting to be proud.’

In the sense of saying, Yes, it’s good to be a Catholic. It’s good to be a Christian. That’s stayed with me after all these years, and I would love for all of you to have an opportunity like that.

He also said that he is setting a large target for 500 young people to join the Holy Father in Portugal next year, making it the largest contingent of Australians to go on the pilgrimage.

Fr Nicholas Pearce of the Archdiocese‘s Discipleship team also spoke of his own life-changing experience at World Youth Day in Rome when he was young, saying that it was a time of ‘real encounter with the Church and with Christ‘.

So, it’s really exciting, especially after the last two years that we’ve had, that as a Church here in Melbourne we’re looking forward to going on pilgrimage together again.

As part of the launch, members of the Discipleship team shared the three pathways or pilgrimage routes that are available for the World Youth Day experience in 2023.

Direct to Lisbon

The first pathway is ‘Direct to Lisbon’, the simplest option, involving a journey of approximately 14 days, centred on the World Youth Day week. Through the experiences shared together in Portugal, the pilgrims will be strengthened in faith and able to return to Melbourne to share their encounters with the local Church.

Italian road trip

The second pathway is an ‘Italian road trip’, an immersion into the eternal city of Rome that will allow pilgrims to walk the same streets walked by the great saints before us, and to visit the tombs of St Peter and St Paul. This pilgrimage will be a ‘prelude’ to the World Youth Day week, and will cover Rome, Assisi and Siena before heading to Portugal for World Youth Day. The journey will last approximately 20 days.

Footsteps of Jesus

The third pathway leads pilgrims in the ‘Footsteps of Jesus’, taking them through the Holy Land to visit some of Christianity’s most sacred and historic sites. This pathway will immerse pilgrims in the story of salvation, allowing the Scriptures to come alive in a unique and unforgettable way, as pilgrims visit locations such as Bethlehem, Jericho, Galilee, Nazareth, the Mount of Beatitudes, Jerusalem and so much more. This journey through the Holy Land will be followed by the World Youth Day week in Lisbon.

This pathway is only available for those aged 18 and over, and it will last for approximately 22 days.

If you would like more information about World Youth Day 2023, or if you would like to register your interest, please visit udisciple.melbournecatholic.org/wyd.

The exact dates and costs for all the World Youth Day 2023 pilgrimage pathways will be confirmed in 2023.