For Portugal, these World Youth Days (WYD), which culminated on Sunday August 6, were an immense challenge. With 1.5 million participants from all over the world at the closing mass, it was the equivalent of 15% of the total population of this small country of 10 million inhabitants who were gathered in the same place. And the challenge has been met, according to Superintendent Pedro Moura, head of operations within the police (PSP), who draws up a positive, although still provisional, assessment.
“We are very satisfied. It went according to plan and there have been no major incidents so far. The instructions were respected by the pilgrims. As for the media coverage, it lived up to the scale of the rally, especially on television.
“They were singing everywhere, in the streets and in transport”
” Pope ? It is eye candy for Catholics and lay people. Resident of Lisbon, Joao Jacinto Freitas has the sense of the formula to evoke his admiration. “I am not religious but the pope is deeply human and humble. He didn’t hesitate to joke when he couldn’t read his speech. His improvisation was an invitation to fight against prejudice. Joao Jacinto does not hide his admiration. He is one of the Lisbon people who feared the arrival of the multitude of young people. But like many he surrendered to the colorful, joyful and dynamic atmosphere of the “JMJotas” – the participants in the JMJ.
“They were singing everywhere, in the streets and in transport. It was really joyful and friendly”, recognizes Cristina who feared the difficulties of moving around. “I come from Sintra, it’s about thirty kilometers from Lisbon, to work in the center. I take the train then the tram but everything went very well. It was even better than usual, ”concludes this employee of a hairdressing salon.
During the week, Lisbon seemed to be both crowded and deserted. Almost too small to accommodate these young people from all over the world, wandering the narrow streets in more or less large groups. But the city also seemed somewhat deserted by its inhabitants. The Lisbon people had taken leave, as they usually do during the first 15 days of August. The many posters on the fronts of stores “closed for staff rest” were proof of this.
Absence tolerated and telecommuting encouraged
The government and the municipality had granted a tolerance of absence on August 5 and 6 to civil servants not requisitioned for the event. And teleworking has been encouraged. For the organizers, the main concern was the regulation of traffic and the movement of the million people expected. More than 350,000 additional places have been made available on public transport during the week, 700,000 for weekends. The metro transported 1.8 million people on the first three days of WYD, double the usual number.
— Arnaud Bevilacqua (@arnbevilacqua) August 5, 2023
Crucial moments for the organizers, the vigil on Saturday evening and the mass on Sunday August 6, which took place in the suburbs of Lisbon and on the edge of the Tagus in a marshy area, were by far considered the most difficult to manage. The approximately 16,000 agents deployed had to be extra vigilant. Saturday morning, when all the pilgrims converged on Tejo Park, metro stations announced to be open were blocked due to discomfort caused by the crowds and the heat.
For the restoration of the pilgrims registered during the week, around 350,000, a system of exchange vouchers had been set up and worked well, even if some young people would have liked to find more partner establishments. “We had bet on 150 meals a day, and we sold 400, continuously”, rejoices Yago, manager of a “Portuguese Bakery”, a food chain which has adhered to the principle with 1,500 other establishments.