Pope Francis urged young people not to be afraid during a massive Mass Sunday as he wrapped up World Youth Day in Portugal. He also announced that the next World Youth Day would be held in Asia for the first time in 30 years.
The pope told an estimated 1.5 million attendees of the Catholic festival at Parque Tejo in Lisbon that the Church needs them and urged them to follow their dreams before saying Seoul, South Korea, would host World Youth Day in 2027.
“As young people, you want to change the world and it is good that you want to change the world and work for justice and peace,” Francis said. “The Church and the world need you, the young, as much as the earth needs rain.”
He added, “Do not be afraid!”
Some 700 bishops and 10,000 priests attended the grand finale, the Vatican said.
Before departing, Francis thanked some of the event’s roughly 30,000 international volunteers who were assembled at a riverside.
“I never thought that so many people would come,” Ana Garcia Prat, a 23-year-old Spanish pilgrim in Lisbon told The Associated Press. “In my head, I never pictured a Mass with so many people from so many different countries.”
Francis spent five days in Portugal presiding over the Lisbon edition of World Youth Day. The weather that afternoon reached around 104 degrees and prompted authorities to issue an extreme weather alert. The heat appeared to make the pontiff uncomfortable as he toured along in the open-topped popemobile.
The pope’s emphasis on young people following their dreams and not being afraid of failing repeated a theme St. John Paul II had during his quarter-century of World Youth Days in the 1980s.
John Paul presided over the last and only Youth Day gatherings in Asia when the festival was held in Manila, Philippines, in 1995. It was one of the largest-ever editions.
Francis’ message this week has been one of inclusivity, insisting that “everyone, everyone, everyone” has a place in the church.
Lisbon Cardinal Manuel Clemente said the pope wanted the event to be “open … to everyone, showing the breadth of the Gospel, which excludes no one and is open to all.”
“It’s something really important in today’s world to accept us as we are, and to know our place as Christians, and to validate it,” Doriane Kilundu, a 23-year-old pilgrim from the Democratic Republic of Congo, told the Associated Press. “We really support the message of the pope and we are happy to be here.”
She added, “I’m in the company of young girls from my country that for the first time are confronted with people from other places, and to understand that we are one nation, and for us is beautiful.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.