Cardinal Seán's Blog

Cardinal Seán O’Malley shares his reflections and experiences

Participating at World Youth Day in Lisbon

Hello and welcome!

I am now in Portugal, attending World Youth Day.

There is a very vibrant atmosphere, and you bump into youth from every nation. The Spanish are the largest group. I think there are around 70,000 youth from Spain and about 20,000 from the States in attendance, so we’re one of the top five countries after Spain, Italy, and France, which are the largest groups of pilgrims coming from outside of Portugal. Regarding Boston, around 900 pilgrims are participating in this year’s World Youth Day.

On Sunday, we arrived in Fatima.

The local bishop, Jose Ornelas Carvalho, and the rector of the shrine, Father Carlos Cabecinhas, invited me to celebrate the Mass.


We began with a rosary at the Cova da Iria, where the apparition of Our Lady of Fatima took place. Then, there was a procession with the statue of Our Lady of Fatima. Some of the Capuchin friars from my province carried the statue.

There were thousands of people in the plaza, and there were perhaps 100 priests or more, and maybe 40 or 50 bishops that concelebrated the Mass.

It was in Portuguese for the shrine, but we had people there from many different countries, and we had quite a group of people from Boston.

In my homily, I mentioned that Sunday was also the 20th anniversary of my installation as Archbishop of Boston.


Tuesday morning, I went to the Church of San Paolo in Lisbon for a meeting of all the Capuchins who are here for World Youth Day. I think there are over 60 Capuchins visiting from different parts of the world.

The Church of San Paolo is in the community where a Capuchin saint, Lawrence of Brindisi, died in 1619. He spoke many languages and often served as a diplomat. He died on a diplomatic mission in Lisbon, and then he was taken to Spain and buried at the Poor Clare convent there.

Before the prayer service started, each group from the different countries sang songs from their country in the plaza there, so I sang with the friars from my province. Then, they had a prayer service, and our minister general, Brother Roberto Genuin, addressed the friars. It was a lovely event.

This is a Moorish castle in Lisbon, Castello sao Jorge


Sidewalks of Lisbon


I like very much walking through the streets of Lisbon, but of course, these days they are full of pilgrims.

With parishioners of St. Mark’s in Dorchester and The Jamaica Plain Collaborative


Wednesday, I had a catechesis in English at an outdoor site. There were about 4,000 young people, and once again, we had several Boston groups present.

The event was organized by the Focolare Movement. The new president of the Focolare movement, Margaret Karram from Israel, was there, so I was able to meet her. She was accompanied by the vice-president, Father Jesus Moran Cepedano, who is from Spain.


Thursday, I had a Spanish catechesis at a racetrack in the town of Cascais, just outside of Lisbon. There were about 6,000 young people there, mostly from Spain. We had witness talks and songs, I gave a reflection, and then we had a Mass. There were two Spanish bishops who accompanied me. It was a very lively group, and once again, many priests were there.

We had several of our Hispanic pilgrims from Most Holy Redeemer Parish in East Boston with Sister Elsa and Father Dan Zinger.

Pope Francis was also at Cascais when I was there, visiting a school from a movement called Scholas Occurrentes that he was involved in from the time he was archbishop of Buenos Aires. He was at the Catholic University and then came to Eduardo VII Park, where there was a very beautiful program with dance, prayer, litanies, a reflection on the Word of God, and the Holy Father’s opening talk to the youth. It was a very enthusiastic reception.


The weather has been beautiful. We’ve been very lucky, although we’re expecting hot weather for Saturday and Sunday. Thursday was perfect, about 70 degrees, with a lovely breeze.

One of the editors of a local newspaper, I think Publico, said he was an agnostic, but after seeing all these joyful young people living their faith, he couldn’t consider himself an agnostic anymore.

This is the largest event in Portugal’s history. Portugal is a country of nine million people, and to have a million visitors come in, all young people, is certainly a lot. I had to laugh because if anyone came here for vacation and didn’t realize World Youth Day was going to take place, the streets are just replete with young people singing and carrying flags from their countries. There’s a great atmosphere of joy, solidarity, and faith, which is very encouraging.

Until next week,
Cardinal Seán