thousands of pPilgrims from all over the world arrive in Portugal by land, sea and air a few days before World Youth Day (WYD) begins), a Catholic event that will host Lisbon and its metropolitan area from August 1 to 6 and will be headed by Pope Francis.
In large groups, in pairs or alone, the participants of the Portuguese WYD, dressed in rosaries, crosses, backpacks with the event logo or t-shirts With religious messages and images of the pontiff, they are easily recognizable across the country as they make their way to the capital.
The organization expects the presence of close to one million faithful, although the number of registered indicates lower levels of participation.
According to the records, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Poland and the United States, In that order, they are the countries that will contribute the most participants.
Lisbon airport, one of the main points of entry into the country, this Saturday is a hive of activitywith the constant arrival of groups of pilgrims who sing, await instructions from the coordinators or pray.
Beatriz Barros, a volunteer who works at one of the information posts that WYD has set up inside the airport, explains that the pilgrims who have arrived by plane these days are mostly from the United States, Canada, Latin America and Africa.
“Today we already notice that there is a much greater influx of people, many more groups arriving. We’ve been here since Monday, we’ve been here all week, and it shows every day that there are more and more people arriving,” he told EFE.
Among those recently landed is the American Kevin Bohli, who has already organized group trips for young people in the six previous editions of WYD.
He explains to EFE that, on this occasion, he is coordinating a group of 130 people, who will stay in Portugal for 10 days and will also visit the sanctuary of Fátima, an epicenter of Catholic pilgrimage in the country located 130 kilometers north of Lisbon.
“We’ve split into two flights and we’ve just landed and now we’re getting on buses. We are going to Fatima for three days for a retreat and then we will return to Lisbon to celebrate World Youth Day”, he explains.
In the central Lisbon square of Marqués de Pombal, where some of the main WYD activities will take place, walks Rocío Pérez, a Spaniard who arrived this Friday in the Portuguese capital as a volunteer with a friend, but who in just 24 hours has managed to join another group of Spaniards that exceeds ten.
“We have been meeting people as a result of the house in which we are sleeping and we have made friends along the way,” he clarifies.
Faced with the massive arrival of pilgrims, Portugal has prepared a strong security device with thousands of troops, visible in large cities, such as Lisbonwhere the police presence has multiplied at the airport, ports, public roads and at visitor concentration points.
In addition, the country has recovered documentary controls at the borders, in an “exceptional” way, between July 22 and August 7 and has prevented the entry of more than 90 people out of some 330,000 entries.
The WYD will be chaired by Pope Francis, who is scheduled to arrive on August 2 to Portugal, visit Fatima on the 5th and return to Rome on the 6th. EFE