Vatican Pulls Back 2023 World Youth Day Stamp Following Backlash in Portugal


The Vatican has withdrawn a newly issued postage stamp honoring the upcoming World Youth Day in Portugal in 2023. This action was done in response to objections regarding the stamp’s controversial depiction of a monument from the middle of the 20th century, which is seen by some in Portugal as a sensitive matter.

The Vatican Philatelic Service first released the stamp on May 16. It featured Pope Francis leading a group of kids up the Monument to Discoveries. This monument was built in Lisbon in 1960 to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the passing of illustrious Portuguese explorer Henry the Navigator.

Vatican Recalls Controversial Stamp Celebrating World Youth Day 2023

According to the article in Catholic News Agency, however, Pope Francis stands in for Henry the Navigator at the ship’s prow in the stamp’s design. The goal was to exemplify “a ship that guides young people and the Church towards the future.”

The Governorate of the Vatican City State withdrew this imagery as a result of the unfavorable reactions it elicited. The design, according to detractors, uncomfortably resembled propaganda used by the Salazar dictatorship, under whose rule the monument was constructed. According to the Associated Press, the regime’s goals during that time were to support Portugal’s colonial ambitions in Africa and promote nationalist sentiment., 

The Vatican has come under fire over a World Youth Day stamp, with some claiming it references “a colonial past” in contrast to Pope Francis’ message of international fraternity. The stamp was deemed “in bad taste” by Portuguese Bishop Carlos Moreira Azevedo. A representative for World Youth Day defended the stamp by highlighting the need to concentrate on fundamental goals and dismissing social media issues as commonplace.

The stamp, which costs about 3.10 euros, helps the Vatican make money, a large portion of which comes from its numismatic and philatelic office. According to the National Catholic Register, the Pope is expected to attend the international Catholic event World Youth Day in 2023, which the Vatican is planning to commemorate with a new stamp. The event, which was originally slated for 2022, will now take place in Lisbon from August 1–6, 2023, after being postponed for a full year because of COVID-19.

Also Read:Caritas Internationalis of Vatican Appoints New Leadership Following Papal Dismissals

WYD Lisbon Foundation Defends Vatican’s Withdrawn Stamp Amid Criticisms

The WYD Lisbon 2023 Foundation has defended the artwork in the midst of controversy regarding a postage stamp that the Vatican recently revoked. The representative for the organization, Rosa Pedroso Lima, has provided her opinions on how Pope Francis is portrayed on the divisive stamp.

As per the report in Aleteia, the stamp, according to Lima’s statement, has “an image of the Pope on a Lisbon monument, symbolizing, in a kind of allegory, St. Peter’s boat and the Pope leading young people and the Church into a new era.” She stressed that there are many different ways to interpret any piece of art, even stamps. She stated that the goal of this reading is to promote World Youth Day and the Vatican is doing this.

Lima pointed out in her speech that any interpretations that depart from the clear objectives of the Vatican are unjustified. She said that Pope Francis is committed to fostering respect, removing obstacles, extending boundaries, and fostering communication between many groups of people, cultures, and religions. The core of the Pope’s message, she emphasized, is his commitment to inclusivity. Lima stressed that this dedication to harmony and inclusiveness would be clearly visible throughout the World Youth Day celebrations.

Related Article:Vatican Investigates Potential Miracle at Connecticut Church