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Pope Francis calls for a joyful church open to ‘everybody, everybody, everybody’

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Pope Francis, accompanied by Cardinal Manuel Clemente of Lisbon, arrives at Tejo Park for the closing of WYD 2023. Photo: CNS/Lola Gomez

Pope Francis calls for a church for ‘righteous and sinners, good and bad, everyone, everyone, everyone’ in his farewell to pilgrims at the conclusion of the official World Youth Day program

Pope Francis asked the 1.5 million young people who attended World Youth Day to take “what God has sown into your hearts” back to their home countries and build a joyful church that is open to all.

Young pilgrims interviewed by Catholic News Service during World Youth Day constantly returned to the pope’s main point during the official welcome ceremony for World Youth Day on 3 August: in the church there is room for “everyone, everyone, everyone.”

He asked the jubilant crowd of flag-waving young people to repeat the refrain with him in Lisbon’s Eduardo VII Park and shouts of “todos, todos, todos”—”everyone” in Spanish and Portuguese— spread throughout the crowd.

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Yet was during his meeting on 2 August with Portuguese bishops, priests, religious and pastoral workers that the pope first issued his “todos” message.

“Please, let us not convert the church into a customs office” where only the “just,” “good,” and “properly married” can enter while leaving everyone else outside, he said.

“No. The church is not that,” he said, rather it is a place for “righteous and sinners, good and bad, everyone, everyone, everyone.”

Asked during his inflight news conference 6 August how the church can be for everyone when women and gay people are excluded from some sacraments, Pope Francis said that “the church is open to all, but then there is legislation that regulates life inside the church.”

“This does not mean that [the church] is closed.

Each person encounters God by their own way, inside the church, and the church is mother and guides each one by their own path,” he responded. The pope’s packed agenda had three to four official events per day, and he added private meetings with several groups and individuals at the Vatican nunciature in Lisbon where he was staying.

Among them was a group of abuse survivors who met with the pope for over an hour 2 August, during which they “dialogued about this plague” of abuse, the pope said. The pope celebrated Mass with 1.5 million young people sprawled across Lisbon’s riverside Tejo Park on 6 August and told them not to be afraid of pursuing their great dreams to change the world.

After the closing Mass, the pope announced that Seoul, South Korea, would be the location for the next World Youth Day in 2027, drawing great applause from South Korean pilgrims.

The previous morning, Pope Francis visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Fátima, where he again put aside his prepared remarks and spoke off the cuff, focusing on Mary and skipping over an expected prayer for peace in the world.

He later said that “I prayed to Our Lady, and I prayed for peace” before a statue of Our Lady of Fátima, but “I did not advertise.”

A miracle healing is reported to have occurred hours after Pope Francis prayed at the shrine, after Jimena, a 95 per cent blind 14-year-old girl from Madrid, Spain, regained her sight.

After praying to Our Lady of the Snows, whose feast day it was, and after having completed the novena to Our Lady with her classmates, Jimena went to Mass.
When she returned to her seat after receiving Communion, she realised she had recovered her sight.

“When I opened my eyes I saw perfectly!” she said in a WhatsApp audio message that she sent to her family and friends, that has since gone viral.

“After Communion I sat on the bench, I started crying a lot because it was the last day of the novena and I wanted to … I asked God very much [for this], and when I opened my eyes, I saw perfectly,” she said.

A nun friend of the family contacted Cardinal Juan José Omella of Barcelona, president of the Spanish bishops’ conference, to tell him what happened and the cardinal called the girl to hear the story directly from her.

Jimena, in the words of the cardinal, “was very enthusiastic.” Asked at a press conference in the WYD media centre on 6 August about the case, the cardinal considered it a “grace of God,” nevertheless counseling those present to wait for medical assessments before proclaiming the event as miraculous.

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