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World Youth Day in Lisbon showed ‘universal dimensions of God’s heart,’ pope says

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Pope Francis greets members of the organizing committee and the World Youth Day Lisbon 2023 Foundation at the Vatican Nov. 30, 2023. (CNS photo/Vatican Media)

VATICAN CITY — Although he had an aide read his prepared talk to the people who had organized World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal, Pope Francis had a few memories and questions he wanted to share himself.

“Thank you, thank you for what you have done,” he told the group Nov. 30. “Thank you for all you set up so that this World Youth Day could be what it was: a strong point of evangelization, joy and youthful expression!”

Pope Francis said that during his stay in Lisbon Aug. 2-6, a 96-year-old woman gave him a rosary, which he has kept. “Is she still alive?” he asked. She is, they replied.

“I also remember a 19-year-old girl with a serious illness who offered up her life for World Youth Day thinking she would die,” the pope said. “Is she alive?” She is, they replied.

The pope also mentioned “pastéis,” the Portuguese custard tart. But he had no questions about the dessert.

Continuing to recover from a bronchial infection and respiratory problems, Pope Francis let an aide read his speech, which focused on difficulty of organizing such a large event but how successful it was thanks to “the help of many and an extraordinary grace from God.”

“You have given us a shining example of how it is possible to share a mission without leaving anyone out,” the pope said in his text. “You have succeeded in bringing to the center those who until now had lived on the margins.”

Those who recognize “the universal dimensions of God’s heart” are happy to bring people together to work for a common dream, he said. “Keep on dreaming together; keep on including new fellow dreamers in successive waves.”

“I keep repeating and I’m happy to see that many are still echoing me: ‘todos, todos, todos,'” — everyone, everyone, everyone — his repeated insistence in Lisbon that there is room in the church for all.

Pope Francis encouraged those involved in World Youth Day to continue their outreach and bring back to the church those who have strayed or have felt pushed away so that “nothing would be lost” of the graces that flowed from the Lisbon gathering.