The organization has already requested the inclusion of this milestone in the Guinness World Records. ‘The Letter’ (WYD 2023)

World Youth Day (WYD), hosted in Lisbon, Portugal from August 1 to 6, was also a place for Laudato Si’. During the vigil last Saturday, event organizers screened the film “The Letter”, a feature-length movie presented by YouTube Originals and produced by the Oscar-winning team Off the Fence in collaboration with Laudato Si’ Movement.

An estimated 1.5 million young attendees of WYD enjoyed the film while gathered at the Field of Grace to celebrate the vigil with Pope Francis. This led the organizing team to request the registrations of a potential record in the Guinness World Records.

Guillermo Petrón, an attendee from Buenos Aires, stated that the message he gleaned from the film is “that the care of the Common Home depends on everyone, and it’s not just the care of creation, but also the care of people.” He emphasized the “creation and the poor are crying out, and we need to respond!”

Antonio A. Garrido Salcedo, one of the coordinators of WYD Lisbon 2023, explained that “the screening of the film has been a project that has been in the works for over a year– a task that initially seemed impossible, but we decided to get to work.” At the end of the day, the task was worthwhile. Garrido assures, “the atmosphere was very special, and you could see people in front of the screens watching the film with great attention.”

“The Letter”

The film, directed by Emmy winner Nicolas Brown, captures the stories of frontline leaders– an indigenous leader from the Amazon, a climate refugee from Senegal, a youth activist from India, and two American scientists – and their journeys to Rome to discuss the environmental encyclical Laudato Si’ with Pope Francis. They create a dialogue that offers a revealing view of the Pope’s personal history, as well as new hope for our common home, the Earth.

Since its premiere on October 4, 2022, the film has garnered 8.5 million views on YouTube, in addition to those by young people who have been able to see it at the WYD.

Members of the LSM secretariat celebrate The Letter at the WYD screening.

A Laudato Si’ Abundant WYD

Garrido continued to share the role of Laudato Si’ at WYD:

“The screening of the film has been a great culmination, as, in fact, one of the main pillars of the event has been sustainability, and the Pope has referred to Laudato Si’ and the care of our common home in most of his speeches. We hope that it has resonated in the consciousness of many people.”

In fact, during Pope Francis’ meeting with university students from the Catholic University of Lisbon, he acknowledged that he dreams “of a generation of teachers: teachers in humanity, teachers in compassion, teachers in new opportunities for the planet and its inhabitants, teachers of hope.” Thus, the Pope urged young people to recognize “the dramatic urgency of taking care of the common home.” The Pontiff declared “we cannot settle for mere palliative measures or timid and ambiguous commitments,” as “it’s about taking responsibility for what, unfortunately, keeps being postponed, that is: the need to redefine what we call progress and evolution.” Pope Francis further affirmed: 

“Don’t forget that we need an integral ecology; we need to listen to the suffering of the planet alongside that of the poor; we need to put the drama of desertification parallel to that of refugees, the issue of migrations alongside the decline in birth rates; we need to address the material dimension of life within a spiritual dimension.”

Additionally, the Lisbon WYD has been a turning point in its own sustainability awareness. On July 7, it introduced a carbon footprint calculator for pilgrims who wanted to measure their travel footprint from their place of origin to their meeting with the Pope in Lisbon. With the aim of offsetting the carbon footprint left by young people from all nations around the world – with the exception of the Maldives – the Laudato Si’ Movement, Global Tree Initiative, and the JMJ Lisbon 2023 Foundation joined forces last December to plant thousands of trees around the world. In this way, the Lisbon WYD 2023 has offset part of the environmental footprint generated by all the activities it has carried out.