WYD – Background & History
An outside glance of an international World Youth Day would spark a bystander’s curiosity as massive crowds of young people flood the city streets. Some might cringe at the thought of those words, wondering what delinquency is in store, but to witness this gathering would end those fears. The happenstance observer would witness not angst and malice, but smiles and joy, singing and dancing young people, culture upon culture and nation upon nation, proudly holding their flags high (or wearing them), greeting one another in peace, trading their tokens, humbly realizing how small they are in a world of people, and strengthened to witness so many who share their convictions. How did it all begin?
In 1984 at the close of the Holy Year of Redemption, over 300,000 young people from around the world responded to the invitation of His Holiness John Paul II for an International Jubilee of youth on Palm Sunday in St. Peter’s square. Looking out to the crowds who answered his invitation he said, “What a fantastic spectacle is presented on this stage by your gathering here today! Who claimed that today’s youth has lost their sense of values? Is it really true that they cannot be counted on?” It was at this gathering that the Holy Father entrusted to the youth what is now known as the World Youth Day Cross, to be carried throughout the world as a symbol of the love of Christ for humanity.
The following Palm Sunday, coinciding with the United Nation’s International Year of the Youth, Our Holy Father took the opportunity to welcome the youth of the world to Rome again. Later, announcing the institution of World Youth Day on December 20, 1985, and the first official WYD was held in 1986.
The following year brought about a new tradition when the second event and first international WYD took place in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Every Palm Sunday has since been designated as a World Youth Day, alternately celebrated at the diocesan and international levels. There have been 12 International World Youth Day celebrations, where the youth continue to answer the invitation of the Holy Father in staggering numbers and carry home the message received there to be Christ’s light to the world. While these events are organized by the clergy and laity of the Catholic Church, youth of all faiths are invited to attend and encounter Christ, making this gathering truly universal.
In Toronto, the last International WYD in which JPII was present he told the 800,000 gathered with him at the vigil, “When, back in 1985, I wanted to start the World Youth Days… I imagined a powerful moment in which the young people of the world could meet Christ, who is eternally young, and could learn from him how to be bearers of the Gospel to other young people. This evening, together with you, I praise God and give thanks to him for the gift bestowed on the Church through the World Youth Days. Millions of young people have taken part, and as a result have become better and more committed Christian witnesses.”
John Paul II left a legacy for the youth in his institution of World Youth Day, which Pope Benedict XVI has faithfully continued, carrying on the hope of His predecessor for the youth of the world, inviting them and commissioning them as Christ’s disciples to be faithful living witnesses.
|Year and Location||Theme|
|1986– Rome, Italy||Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you.
– 1Pt 3:15
|1987– Buenos Aires, Argentina||We ourselves have known and put our faith in God’s love towards ourselves.
– 1Jn 4:16
|1989– Santiago de Compostela, Spain||I am the way, the truth, and the life
– Jn 14:6
|1991– Czestochowa, Poland||You have received a spirit of sonship.
– Romans 8:15
|1993– Denver. USA||I came that they might have life, and have it to the full.
– Jn 10:10
|1995– Manila, Philippines||As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.
– Jn 20:21
|1997– Paris, France||Teacher, where are you staying? Come and see.
– Jn 1:38-39
|2000– Rome, Italy||Jubilee – The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
– Jn 1:14
|2002-Toronto, Canada||You are the salt of the earth; You are the light of the world.
– Mt 5:13-14
|2005– Cologne, Germany||We have come to worship him.
– Mt 2:2
|2008– Sydney, Australia||You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses
-Acts 1, 8
|2011– Madrid, Spain||Rooted and built up in Jesus Christ, Firm in the Faith
|2013– Rio de Janeiro, Brazil||Go and Make Disciples of All Nations