26/07 - 31/07/2016

WYD History


THEME: Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations (Mt 28:19)

The Holy Father Pope Francis brought the youth to "his" continent. They came to a country full of contrasts. A country where a boisterous carnival takes place in the districts of misery, and citizens who constitute the biggest Catholic nation in the world fight every day against a law which is hostile to the sanctity of life. Based on the missionary theme of the meeting, the “Days in the Dioceses” were called “Missionary Week” . In his teachings, the Pope reminded the young that they cannot become missionaries without first becoming followers of Christ. Parts of this meeting going down in history include the testimonies of generous acceptance of the pilgrims by poor favela residents; as well as the view of Copacabana beach, which was filled with young people up to the edge of the ocean. It is on this beach where Francis encouraged the young: "Go, without fear, to serve" – and invited them to the next meeting in Krakow.  

HYMN: Esperança do Amanhecer

Parts of this meeting going down in history include

World Youth Day in Rio was the first one attended by Pope Francis, as well as his first foreign trip as Pope.


THEME: Planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith (cf. Col 2:7)

During the World Youth Day waves of protest swept through Spain’s capital; illustrating not only social and economic difficulties, but also a crisis of faith on the Old Continent. In response, Cardinal Stanisław Ryłko insisted during the opening mass that young pilgrims are invited to give lost Europe a testimony "of the faith, which is possible." Pope Benedict has also encouraged young people to struggle and hold onto their faith against the threats of the modern world. "So do not keep Christ to yourselves! Communicate the joy of your faith with others!” – Cuatro Vientos said during the Mass on the airfield. That same airfield, over which swept a violent storm during Saturday's Vigil, failed to cool down the enthusiasm of pilgrims who prayed and cheered, until the rain and wind stopped just before the start of the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

HYMN: Firmes en la Fe

At the end of the WYD in Madrid a Neocatechumenal vocational meeting was held, attended by 200 thousand persons. During the meeting, Kiko Argüello said to the young: "If any of you brothers and sisters feels that God calls you to give your life for Christ – stand up." Then, about 5 thousand boys and 3 thousand girls stood up and approached the bishops for a blessing on the way to their vocations.


THEME: You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you,
and you will be my witnesses (Acts 1:8)

World Youth Day in Australia was a double challenge for the organizers. Not only because of the great distance the pilgrims had to go, but also because it took place in a country where only 26% of the population identify as Catholics. Nearly a quarter of them are Aborigines – native inhabitants of Australia, living on the fringe of Australian society. During the celebration of WYD their presence has been repeatedly underlined. They welcomed both pilgrims and the Holy Father in the traditional waterfront processions. The Pope also mentioned them in his speeches. Although WYD in Sydney turned out to be one of the smallest in the history of the Days, it resulted in a great revival for the local church. It realized the invitation of Pope Benedict XVI to the young, to become the "prophets of a new era" and to also aspire to holiness: "Through the Spirit’s action, may the young people gathered here for World Youth Day have the courage to become saints! This is what the world needs more than anything else.”

HYMN: Receive the Power

Modern WYDs - featuring a strong multimedia presence including social media, a Youtube channel and Facebook engagement - have their origin at Sydney.

Modern WYDs - featuring a strong multimedia presence including social media, a Youtube channel and Facebook engagement - have their origin at Sydney.


THEME: We have come to worship him (Mt 2:2)

It was called by Pope John Paul II, presided over by Pope Benedict XVI - Cardinal Joachim Meisner named it "the first Youth Day with two popes." After the death of John Paul II, many had wondered whether the young would listen to the next successor of St. Peter with equal care, and how the Pope would open the dialog with them. However, many young people came to Cologne from 197 countries around the world. There, in addition to participation in the "traditional" WYD meetings, they made a pilgrimage to the Cathedral, in which the relics of the Three Wise Men are kept. It was in Cologne where Pope Benedict, inspired by the theme of the meeting, presented the pilgrims a gift that henceforth is constantly present during WYD: the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament during Saturday's vigil.

HYMN: Venimus adorare eum

Although it was the first WYD not actually presided by John Paul II, he was present not only in the mind of the pilgrims, but also in the form of a great portrait exposed in front of the Cathedral in Cologne. This portrait was made of hundreds of thousands of images of young people from all over the world.


THEME: You are the salt of the earth…
You are the light of the world (Mt 5:13-14)

The meeting in Canada was held in the shadow of the attacks on the World Trade Center, located only 550 km away in New York. Half a year after the event, young people brought the WYD cross to the place of the tragedy, which for the first time went across all Canadian dioceses, preparing the country for the Day. There were innovations during the very days too: for the first time the name "Youth Festival" had been used. And for pilgrims and residents of Toronto, there was the unforgettable experience of the mystery of the Way of the Cross, organized in the streets of one of the business districts. The Holy Father not only explained to the pilgrims the depth of the Evangelical blessings, but also, at the end of the meeting, passed on the task: „You are our hope, the young are our hope. Do not let that hope die! Stake your lives on it! We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures; we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of his Son.”

HYMN: Light of the World

brought the WYD cross to the place of the tragedy

This WYD is kept in memory of many of these young people as the last presided over by John Paul II.


THEME: And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us (Jn 1:14)

When the Church experienced the Great Jubilee of the year 2000, the Pope invited young people to Rome, and for the topic of the meeting chose what what he described as: "the consise phrase with which Saint John the Apostle describes the profound mystery of God made man: «The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us»" He spoke to the audience: „Dear friends, at the dawn of the Third Millennium I see in you the «morning watchmen»”, and he reminded them that it is impossible to be a witness to the faith without having roots in it. Therefore, on the threshold of the new millennium, WYD participants traveled through Rome following the footsteps of the first Christians: they made pilgrimages to the tomb of St. Peter, confessed in the "largest confessional in the world" at Circo Massimo where Christians of the first centuries were dying for the faith, and gathered in front of the Lateran Basilica – the first Christian Temple – to listen to the personal testimony of faith given by the Pope himself.

HYMN: Emmanuel

 and for the topic of the meeting chose what what he described as: "the consise

During this WYD, pilgrims for the first time were accompanied by the icon of the Mother of God “Salus Populi Romani” – revered in Rome for over fifteen centuries. Also in the year 2000, a catechesis on the way to the St Peter’s Basilica was given for the first time.


THEME: Teacher, where are you staying? He said to them, ‘Come, and you will see.’ (Jn 1: 38-39)

Though taking place only a year before France celebrated the Jubilee of the 1500-anniversary of its baptism, this WYD was a symbol of Europe's crisis of faith. Preparations for the meeting of the young had been accompanied by the echo of a dramatic question, which the Pope asked in Paris in 1985: "France, eldest daughter of the Church, what have you done with your baptism?". Organizers feared that few young people would respond to the invitation of the Pope. However the central ceremonies were attended by almost three times more pilgrims than expected. The view of young people overcrowding the Hippodrome Longschamp and the 36 kilometers long "chain of young", by which the pilgrims surrounded the entire Paris – were testimonies of faith that went down in history. Also, the meeting in Paris included some innovations that are an important part of WYD today: Days in the Dioceses – initiated in order that the pilgrims shared their faith with people all over the country; voluntary service of young people – helping prevent excessive "professionalizing"of the meeting; and the pastoral-cultural program, today called the Young Festival – which allows the display of many talents, spiritual and artistic, of the youth of the world.

HYMN: Maître et Seigneur, venu chez nous

helping prevent excessive "professionalizing" of the meeting;

During the Pope's meeting with young in Paris in 1997, more than half a million young people holding hands created the so-called “Chain of Brotherhood”, embracing the capital of France.


THEME: As the Father has sent me, so I send you. (Jn 20:21)

This time, WYD was a part of the papal visit to the largest and least evangelized continent. For the place of meeting with the young the Pope chose Philippines, the only Catholic country in Asia. This country fights with great poverty and many social problems every day. Among other moments kept in the memory of participants was the welcome ceremony for the Pope, when the youth asked him four questions: “What have you been expecting from us, announcing the WYD?” “Why do you order us to traverse the whole world?” “Have we fulfilled your expectations?” “What else should we do?" Pope John Paul II not only responded, but joined the young in a spontaneous dialog, interspersed with singing, which continued the next evening. And during the Mass of Mission, he assured them: “How does Jesus send you? (…) He gives you just grace and truth. He sends you out with the powerful message of his Paschal Mystery, with the truth of his Cross and Resurrection. That is all he gives you, and that is all you need.”

HYMN: Tell the World of His love

It was the most well attended WYD – with over 4 million pilgrims.


THEME: I came so that the sheep might have life
and have it more abundantly (Jn 10:10)

During a time when many young people around the world dreamed about the “American dream” and prosperous life, the Pope invited them to a town in the center of the United States. For the young people from politically unstable Europe, this seemed an "ideal State". There, John Paul II reminded the pilgrims that the source of a happy life is fidelity to Jesus, rather than material possessions. He pointed out the current problems of the world, which in previous years had experienced profound political and social changes. The result of this meeting was, among other things, a beginning of the Movement of Pure Hearts, proclaiming that "True Love Waits", and including the Way of the Cross in the WYD scheme. The pilgrims returned to their home countries inspired by the words of the Pope: “Do not be afraid to go out on the streets and into public places, like the first Apostles who preached Christ and the Good News of salvation in the squares of cities, towns and villages. This is no time to be ashamed of the Gospel. It is the time to preach it from the rooftops.”

HYMN: One Body

It was in Denver where the large Way of the Cross for the first time was celebrated in the city streets? In this way a new tradition of WYD had been established.


THEME: You received a spirit of sonship (Rm 8:15)

This was the first Youth Day in a part of Europe that was freed from communism. For the Holy Father, the meeting with the young was a part of his fourth pilgrimage to his homeland. For many young pilgrims – it was the culmination of the pilgrimage by foot to Jasna Góra, which was a Polish tradition dating back to the seventeenth century. It was a sign of political change that about 100,000 people young people from Eastern Europe were for the first time able to go "to the West" and take part in WYD. Therefore, looking at the pilgrims gathered at the foot of the shrine of our Lady, Queen of Poland, John Paul II said: “At last the Church in Europe can freely breathe both lungs.” In the message for this meeting, the Pope explained that he chose Jasna Góra because at the foot of the Mother of Jesus, the youth are able to experience what "sonship" is, and at the end of the WYD in their presence he announced an act of entrusting young from the whole world to the Mother of God.

HYMN: Abba Ojcze

The anthem of this meeting "Abba Father" became a popular song sung by successive generations of the faithful around the world.


THEME: I am the way and the truth and the life. (Jn 14:6)

When Europe was experiencing political transformations and its inhabitants were confronted with questions about its future and identity, John Paul II took the young from all over the world to the oldest European pilgrimage route. He said to the pilgrims “At the tomb of St James we want to learn that our faith has historical foundations; it is not something vague and transient.” One of the symbolic events was a spontaneous decision of young during the Sunday mass to collect money to help the residents of Bolivia, India, and Tanzania.

HYMN: Somos los jóvenes del 2000

The Pope, with a walking stick and cape, did the last segment of the pilgrimage Way of St. James on foot.


THEME: We have come to know and to believe
in the love God has for us (1Jn 4:16)

The second World Youth Day was also the first held outside Italy and outside Europe. Pope John Paul II chose Argentina – struggling with the consequences of the bloody rule of the military junta and liberation theology, and many elements of this meeting were symbolic explanations of the essence of the World Youth Day. First of all was the time. Although the meeting in Buenos Aires was the last to be held on Palm Sunday, it was a reminder that the papal plan is to invite young people to explore the Mystery of Redemption. Secondly, the definition of youth: explaining the meeting motto the Pope said: "In those words resonates poignant testimony of what we refer as to Christian youth of spirit, which is a constant preserving fidelity to God's love. Union with God allows us every day to grow in this youth." Thirdly was the form. The meeting in Buenos Aires in its entirety was based on a dialog between the Pope and the young.

HYMN: Un nuevo sol

The Papal speech was based on 21 questions posed by the, a youth, and the celebrations were accompanied by numerous performances in which young expressed difficulties, concerns and hopes of everyday life.


THEME: May you give an account of the hope that is within you

(1 Pt 3:15, Pope John Paul II’s wishes for the young people for the International Youth Year)

Although the first meeting had a diocesan dimension, it was it was the first "numbered" World Youth Day. In his homily, John Paul II explained to young what according to his plan the World Youth Day should be, both in diocesan and international dimension. He said: "Today you are here again, dear friends, to begin in Rome, in St. Peter’s Square, the tradition of World Youth Day, the celebration to which the entire Church is invited. (...) World Youth Day means just this, going to encounter God, who entered into the history of man by means of the Pasqual Mystery of Jesus Christ. He entered in a way that cannot be undone. And he desires to meet you above all.

This was the year when WYD officially started.

The establishment of the World Youth Day was another example of John Paul II's concern for young people, expressed from the first moments of his pontificate. As soon as during the inauguration of his pontificate, he said to the young: "You are the future of the world, you are the hope of the Church, you are my hope. 13 March 1983 he opened the youth Center of San Lorenzo at the Vatican, and when two weeks later he inaugurated the Extraordinary Holy Year of Jubilee of Redemption, he accepted from the young from the center the wooden cross, which has become a symbol of the Holy Year. At the end of the celebrations of Palm Sunday, April 22, 1984, he asked the youth to carry this cross all over the world as a sign of redemption and the testimony of their faith. The young accepted this request. Also, they responded to the invitation of the Pope, who called them to Rome in 1985 to a meeting on the occasion of the International Year of Youth, established by the United Nations. Among other factors, these events inspired the Holy Father to engage in regular meetings with the young. He explained their importance to employees of the Roman Curia during the Christmas Eve: “All young people must feel the care that the Church has for them. Therefore, the whole Church, in union with the successor of Peter, must be more and more engaged at a global level in caring for youth, in responding to their anxieties and concerns and to their receptiveness and hopes. We must try to match their expectations, and we must communicate the certainty that is Christ, the Truth that is Christ, and the love that is Christ. And in this privileged concern, which the Church directs toward them, young people need to find a proof that they matter very much, because they are worth very much. Their life is valuable to the Church."

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