To conclude his visit to Portugal, Pope Francis celebrated a big outdoor Mass before an estimated 1.5 million people on Sunday, wrapping up an international Catholic youth festival.

Pope Francis celebrated an open-air Mass before an estimated 1.5 million people on Sunday at a waterside park near Lisbon, wrapping up an international jamboree of Catholic youth.

The crowd at the mass at the Parque Tejo on the eastern outskirts of the Portuguese capital, estimated at 1.5 million by the Vatican, had earlier waved national flags and cheered as the pontiff arrived.

Many attendings had camped out overnight in sleeping bags or floor mats after attending a vigil held by the pope.

Francis arrived in Portugal on Wednesday for World Youth Day, a six-day international Catholic jamboree featuring festive, cultural, and religious events.

It comes as Francis attempts to galvanize young Catholics when secularism and priest pedophilia scandals cause some to abandon pews in Europe.

The pope met 13 victims of clerical abuse at the Holy See’s diplomatic mission in Lisbon during his first day in Portugal.

He also met 15 youths from war-torn Ukraine, visited a community center in Lisbon’s impoverished Serafina neighborhood, and prayed at the shrine of Fatima north of the Portuguese capital.

During his visit, Francis stressed his call for inclusivity, telling the World Youth Day opening ceremony on
Thursday that “in the Church, there is room for everyone.”

World Youth Day, created in 1986 by John Paul II, is the largest Catholic gathering in the world and features a wide range of events, including concerts and prayer sessions.

At the end of Sunday’s Mass, the pope announced that Seoul in South Korea would host the next edition in 2027.

Katrine Houmøller, with AFP