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Thousands of pilgrims counting down to World Youth Day

By Mary Brazell

Diocese of Parramatta pilgrims are seen during the first World Youth Day Pilgrim Formation Session at Novotel Sydney Rooty Hill. Image: Diocese of Parramatta

By the ACBC, 5 June 2023

More than 3000 Australian pilgrims will travel to Portugal for World Youth Day 2023, making it one of the largest Australian contingents to attend the gathering in its history.

A group of 25 World Youth Day pilgrimage coordinators gathered in Sydney – or joined the meeting online – in early May for the final preparation day before the August 1-6 celebrations.

The focus of the day was to spiritually nourish coordinators and provide the latest information and planning for the pilgrims’ arrival in Lisbon in about 10 weeks’ time.

“This was a great chance for us all to pray together, and also to encourage the leaders to remember that they themselves will be on pilgrimage,” said Archbishop Christopher Prowse, chair of the Bishops Commission for Evangelisation, Laity and Ministry.

“These faith-filled Catholics, some of whom have attended several previous World Youth Days, can be an example of prayer, presence, and accompaniment – and not be all business, all the time.

“As I said to the leaders, their tone and presence can be an example to their groups and other leaders about how we enter into our pilgrimage experience.”

In addition to the week-long event in Portugal, the dozens of Australian groups will also undertake pilgrimages or retreats in places like the Holy Land, Rome, Lourdes, Fátima, Ávila and Assisi.

The Australian pilgrims will be joined by many young people from the Oceania region, with World Youth Day organisers and Australian dioceses providing financial assistance to support their participation.

Kelly Paget, a pilgrimage coordinator from the Diocese of Broken Bay, will be attending her eighth World Youth Day. She said it’s a great joy to see such enthusiasm among young people.

“I know firsthand the life-making difference World Youth Day has on the lives of young people,” she said. “It was this encounter with Christ and his Church, that first sparked my own drive to be a missionary disciple.

“Given it has been four-and-a-half years since we went to Panama in early 2019, there is a whole new cohort of young Catholics eager to experience the global phenomenon that is World Youth Day,” she said.

“We have been working with our pilgrims to deepen their spiritual life to prepare for this moment, and I know that young people across the country would be grateful for the prayers of the Catholic community as we count down to our departures.”

Based on current projections, only World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid, the first after World Youth Day in Sydney in 2008, will have had a larger group of Australian pilgrims.

“Our Church, and our young Church, continues to be hungry for ways to express a deep faith in Jesus, and there are few better ways to do that than at a World Youth Day,” Archbishop Prowse said.

With thanks to the ACBC.