San Zeno, the Arena, Montorio Prison, and the Bentegodi Stadium. These are the key locations that Pope Francis will visit during his trip to Verona on May 18.

Starting at San Zeno with the Youth Festival

The day will begin in Verona Cathedral, where the Pope will be greeted by children and teens from local parishes, kindergartens, and primary and middle schools. Gates to Piazza San Zeno will open at 6:30 a.m., with events beginning at 8:00 a.m. For third-year middle school kids, this ceremony kicks off the “Festa del Passaggio,” a day of walks, activities, and a packed lunch. Pope Francis will next proceed to the Basilica of San Zeno for a moment of discourse and prayer with priests, deacons, and consecrated people beside the patron saint’s relics.

What is Arena di Pace 2024?

Following San Zeno, the Pope will proceed to the amphitheater for the “Arena di Pace 2024” event, which runs from 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. This project, inspired by the peace conferences conducted in Verona in the 1980s and 1990s, began in June 2023 as a partnership between the Diocese of Verona and numerous Italian Catholic magazines (Nigrizia, Missione Oggi, Mosaico di Pace, Aggiornamenti Sociali, and Avvenire).

The initiative acknowledges the reality of the “piecemeal World War III” scenario frequently discussed by Pope Francis and emphasizes the need for serious and productive dialogue among various sectors.

Over the last year, five major themes have emerged: peace and disarmament, integral ecology, migration, labor, democracy and rights, and lifestyles. The event on May 18 will mark the conclusion of these discussions and will feature reflections and testimonies from the past year’s work, culminating in a grand celebration. Participants will include associations, Italian popular movements, high school students, university students, and engaged laypeople.

The Arena hosts activists from all over the world

Father Alex Zanotelli and Don Luigi Ciotti will be joined by international activists such as Ugandan climate advocate Vanessa Nakate, Afghan journalist and women’s rights activist Mahbouba Seraj, Brazilian social activist and economist Joao Pedro Stedile, and Italian historian and politician Andrea Riccardi, founder of the Community of Sant’Egidio. During the event, there will be a twin connection to the Holy Land, joining Israel and the West Bank in a symbolic gesture of hope that brings Israelis and Palestinians together.

Francis Pope will visit the Montorio Prison

Following his speech in the Arena, Pope Francis will visit Montorio Prison to speak with inmates, prison staff, families, chaplains, volunteers, and others associated with the facility. As Bishop Domenico pointed out in his pastoral letter, the prison environment, which is frequently cloaked in silence, is full of screams, hopes, and tears that society ignores.

Pentecost Mass at Bentegodi Stadium

The Pope’s journey to Verona will end with a Pentecost Mass at Bentegodi Stadium, which he will preside over at 4:00 PM. The service will be preceded by a youth festival beginning at 2:00 PM with music, thoughts, and testimonials.

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