Young Russians and Ukrainians will join Pope in Lisbon

young Russians and and Ukrainians

The Vatican hopes its help will enable young Russians and Ukrainians to enjoy a friendly encounter at World Youth Day (WYD) this week.

Pope Francis will arrive in Lisbon, Portugal on Wednesday for the August 1-6 international WYD gathering.

Delegations of young Russians and Ukrainians are expected to be there despite their countries being at war, Church sources say.

L’Œuvre d’Orient, the Paris-based Church agency that supports Christians from the East, says it’s helping pay for nearly 300 Ukrainians’ WYD costs.

The Vatican says 18 young adults from Russia will also be at WYD. They’ll be with one of Russia’s Catholic bishops.

Both groups are said to include young women for the most part, as in both Russia and Ukraine most young men have military obligations.

Some foreign university students living in Russia are among the Russian delegation.

Vatican support

The Vatican is eager to highlight the presence of the young Russians and Ukrainians as an opportunity to encourage ‘reconciliation’.

“WYD is traditionally a time for intercultural encounters which can also be encounters of peace,” a Vatican source says.

Young people from other war-torn countries will also be at WYD, the Vatican source confirms. These include youth from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

However, a group of Syrian Catholics had to cancel their WYD plans as Portuguese authorities have refused to grant them entrance visas.

Pope’s programme

During his five days in Portugal, Francis’s programme does not include any specific initiative to bring young Russians and Ukrainians together.

However, there may be an opportunity to do so.

Since the war began, Francis has twice brought Ukrainians and Russians together.

Some criticised him, not for being pro-Russian but for putting the two countries on the same level.

This was the case during the celebration of the Via Crucis (Stations of the Cross) this past Good Friday, when he asked a Russian and a Ukrainian to offer side-by-side testimonies about the horrors of the war.

The pope did something similar in 2022 when a Russian and a Ukrainian woman to carry a large wooden cross together and in silence at one of the Stations.

During a weekly general audience last April, Francis urged people to pray for the mothers of Ukrainian and Russian soldiers killed died in the war.

This also provoked criticism.

Fatima, a symbolic location

Peace will likely be a recurring theme in the speeches and homilies Francis delivers at WYD.

He will almost certainly focus on peace this coming Saturday when he goes to the Marian Shrine of Fatima.

About 100 years ago the shrine was a constant reference point for the Church as it prayed for the conversion of ‘atheist’ Communist Russia.

One of Fatima’s ‘visionaries’ revealed Our Lady had told her to pass a message to the pope: he was to consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Francis referred to this message in March 2022, when he re-consecrated Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

“This is no magic formula but a spiritual act,” Francis said. Rather, the consecration was like calling to a “Mother” for help.


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