Pope Francis presided over the final mass of World Youth Day (WYD) in Lisbon on Sunday in front of 1,5 million pilgrims, on the last day of his visit to the largest international Catholic gathering.
During a press conference on the plane bringing him back to Rome, the 86-year-old pope said he was doing "well", two months after a major abdominal operation under general anesthesia.
"My health is fine! They removed the stitches from me, I resumed a normal life, I have to wear a belt for another two or three months to avoid possible tearing. But I'm fine", a- he assured.
Sunday morning mass, broadcast on giant screens, was organized in a huge park set up for the occasion on the edge of the mouth of the Tagus.
The crowd - estimated at 1,5 million people by Portuguese authorities, according to the Vatican - was just as large at the vigil on Saturday evening. It exceeded the hopes of the organizers who expected a million.
"Thank you, Lisbon, which will remain in the memory of these young people as a + house of brotherhood + and a + city of dreams +", launched the pope at the end of the service, the culmination of a week festive, cultural and spiritual events.
Pope Francis also made a last crowd bath in "Popamobile" to greet the volunteers who participated in the organization of the event.
"We are the Pope's youth!" Chanted the participants again, in the stifling heat, with temperatures approaching 40°C.
WYD in Seoul in 2027
After a night spent under the stars, the young pilgrims woke up to music to the sound of musical entertainment by a Portuguese priest-DJ, in a stage that looked like a giant festival.
In the midst of tents, flags from many countries and temporary sanitary facilities, the young people sang and danced in a joyful atmosphere, surrounded by an important security device.
"It was a beautiful and peaceful night. I had never experienced anything like that. We took advantage of every minute", testified Elsa Gonzalez, a 54-year-old American accompanying a group of young people from San Antonio (Texas) .
The great closing mass was celebrated in the presence of 10.000 priests, 700 bishops and 30 cardinals, on a colossal altar dominating the site of this former dump.
The Argentinian Jesuit also prayed for "those who could not come due to conflicts and wars". "I feel great pain for dear Ukraine, which continues to suffer greatly," he said.
The next WYD will take place in Seoul in 2027, the sovereign pontiff announced again, provoking the cheers of young Koreans who waved their flags.
"In great form"
"What strikes me is really becoming aware of the universality of the Church. All countries are represented, we hear all languages spoken and we see the same joy on the faces", testified to the AFP Charlotte Bordas, a 26-year-old Frenchwoman.
On Saturday, 200.000 faithful gathered at the Fatima shrine in central Portugal, where the spiritual leader of 1,3 billion Catholics made a whirlwind visit to recite the rosary with young sick and disabled people.
Contrary to what was planned, Francis improvised almost all of his first speech, without reading its text, and did not deliver the second, referring neither to the war in Ukraine nor to the search for peace, two yet highly anticipated themes for this stage.
"I prayed for peace, but I did not advertise," the pope told reporters Sunday evening.
The Pope had already improvised his speech on Friday, a decision he justified by a reflection on his glasses preventing reading.
While he had described the pope as "tired" at the start of his visit, due to a very busy schedule, Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa told public television RTP that he had found him "in great form the last two days".
During his visit, the longest of a pope in this Iberian country, the pope addressed many themes, such as ecology, social networks or pedocrime within the Church.
The Editorial Board (with AFP)