Preparations for the next World Youth Day have resumed after they were disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Organizers of the event in Lisbon, Portugal, restarted their work Sept. 5, according to Vatican News.
Bishop Américo Aguiar, an auxiliary bishop of Lisbon and president of the WYD Lisbon 2023 Foundation, told the website that Pope Francis was following developments.
“The pope is very pleased, but also reassured because he is aware that the preparatory work for WYD is progressing,” he said.
The pope announced that the Portuguese capital would host the global Catholic gathering of young people at the closing Mass of the last international World Youth Day, in Panama City, on Jan. 27, 2019.
Lisbon, a city of 505,000 people, is around 75 miles from Fatima, one of the most visited Marian pilgrimage sites in the world. The 2018 report “European Young Adults and Religion” found that Portugal has one of the highest levels of weekly Mass attendance among young people in Europe.
The Lisbon event was initially scheduled for August 2022, but the Vatican said in April that it would be postponed by a year, to August 2023.
Holy See press office director Matteo Bruni said that Pope Francis’ decision to move the date was “due to the current health situation and its consequences on the movement and aggregation of young people and families.”
The local organizing committee welcomed the delay, saying that it shared “with the Holy Father the call that, in the current context and in the coming time, the focus of everyone’s attention is on caring for the most vulnerable, families, and all who, for very different reasons, suffer from the effects of the pandemic caused by COVID-19.”
World Youth Day, which is usually held every three years and often attracts millions of youngsters, was founded by St. Pope John Paul II in 1985. An estimated 700,000 young Catholics attended the last gathering in Panama.
In June 2019, the pope revealed that the theme of the next World Youth Day would be “Mary arose and went with haste,” from St. Luke’s account of the Virgin Mary’s visitation to her cousin Elizabeth after the Annunciation.
The traditional handover of the World Youth Day cross and icon of the Virgin Mary was due to take place on Palm Sunday in St. Peter’s Square, but was also postponed because of the coronavirus outbreak.
A delegation from Panama is now scheduled to pass the cross and icon to young people from Portugal Nov. 22, the Feast of Christ the King. But Aguiar said this date might be subject to change due to the pandemic.
He added that he hoped that “the event in Lisbon will be held in harmony with the lifestyle, way of feeling and language of the youth.”