By Charles Igwe
One million pilgrims, mostly young Africans, are eagerly anticipating the 2023 World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal, with the theme “Mary arose and went with haste.” For these African pilgrims, the event holds special significance, as they seek spiritual renewal and a sense of urgency to address the challenges faced by their continent, including conflict, poverty, and secularism.
Father Boniface Idoko, National Youth Animator and Secretary of the Youth Committee of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria, emphasized that Nigerian participants view World Youth Day as a faith encounter with Christ, not merely a tourist excursion. He believes the event will strengthen young people’s devotion to the Catholic Church, especially in a country where Pentecostalism is gaining ground.
A delegation of 95 people from Nigeria, accompanied by four bishops, will attend the event, while Burkina Faso sends about 35 participants, seeking fraternity and inner renewal amidst insecurity and conflict in their country. In South Africa, Archbishop Buti Tlhagale hopes that the young African participants will be inspired by the presence of people of deep faith from across the world, urging them to be leaders of faith in their communities.
Father Armando Pinho Alberto, National Youth Chaplain of Angola, looks forward to inter-cultural exchanges, preserving his country’s culture while embracing the contributions of others. Cameroon’s National Youth Chaplain, Father Clement Mevo, hopes the delegation will celebrate alongside young people from all over the world and become relays of Pope Francis’ messages.
The African Digital Youth Faith Influencers (ADYFI), consisting of over 200 young people from 50 African countries, will also participate in the event, emphasizing the importance of their faith in their interactions and experiences.
As the excitement builds, African pilgrims are preparing to make their journey to Lisbon, where they hope to encounter Christ and find spiritual strength to face the challenges of their beloved continent.