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World Youth Days - Jornadas Mundiales de la Juventud - Giornate Mondiali della Gioventù

"You are the hope of the Church and of the world. You are my hope."
were the words of the new Pope to the young people in St Peter's Square on 22 October 1978.

Papa St John Paul II repeated these words many times, both at the gatherings of young people on his pilgrim journeys and in particular at World Youth Days, which had their beginnings in 1984 when JPII held an International Youth Meeting in St Peter's Square on Palm Sunday, and a week later on Easter Sunday entrusted young people with the Cross. This simple wooden Cross has been carried round the world by young people ever since. 1985 was declared an 'International Year for Youth' by the UN; Pope John Paul II wrote his Apostolic Letter Dilecti Amici to the youth of the world and in December announced the institution of World Youth Day.

World Youth Day has been celebrated on Palm Sunday every year since on a diocesan level, with an annual messsage from our Holy Fathers. There have also been 14 international World Youth Days - in Buenos Aires, Santiago de Compostela, Czestochowa, Denver, Manila, Paris, Rome, Toronto, Cologne, Sydney, Madrid, Rio de Janiero, Krakow & Panama. They've taken on a 5 day structure: 3 days of catechesis, prayer and celebration, Stations of the Cross on the Friday, a pilgrimage on the Saturday for a prayer vigil with the Pope and the final Mass on the Sunday. The next international WYD will be in Lisbon in 2022. WYD Manila 1995 is in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest gathering in the history of the world (estimates of 6 million) & GMG Rome in the Jubilee 2000 is the largest gathering in the history of Europe (over 2 million). There were about 2 million with Benedict XVI in Madrid 2011 and over 3 million on Copacabana beach with Pope Francis at JMJ Rio 2013.

All the World Youth Days are listed below, along with their themes, links to the full messages given by our Papas and footage of the international gatherings:

I World Youth Day - Palm Sunday 1986
“Always be prepared to make a defence to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you”

1985 - International Year for Youth

International Youth Meeting - Palm Sunday 1985
John Paul II's apostolic letter to the youth of the world - Dilecti Amici

Pope St John Paul II announces the institution of World Youth Day - 20 December 1985.

1984 - Holy Year of the Redemption

International Youth Meeting - Palm Sunday 1984

Pope Saint John Paul II presents and entrusts young people with the Cross - Easter Sunday 1984.

St John Paul II (in Crossing the Threshold of Hope, 1994):

"Every parish priest in Rome knows that my visits to the parish must conclude with the meeting between the Bishop of Rome and the young people of the parish. And not only in Rome, but anywhere the Pope goes, he seeks out the young and the young seek him out. Actually, in truth, it is not the Pope who is being sought out at all. The one being sought out is Christ, who knows ‘that which is in every man’ (Jn 2:25), especially in a young person, and who can give true answers to his questions! And even if they are demanding answers, the young are not afraid of them; more to the point, they even await them.

This also explains the idea of holding World Youth Days. At the very beginning, during the Jubilee Year of Redemption, and then again for the International Year of Youth, sponsored by the United Nations (1985), young people were invited to Rome. This was the beginning. No one invented the World Youth Days. It was the young people themselves who created them.  Those days, those encounters, then became something desired by young people throughout the world. Most of the time these Days were something of a surprise for priests, and even bishops, in that they surpassed all their expectations.

The World Youth Days have become a great and fascinating witness that young people give of themselves. They have become a powerful means of evangelization.In the young there is, in fact, an immense potential for good and for creative possibility.  Whenever I meet them in my travels throughout the world, I wait first of all to hear what they want to tell me about themselves, about their society, about their Church.And I always point out: ‘What am I going to say to you is not as important as what you are going to say to me. You will not necessarily say it to me in words; you will say it to me by your presence, by your song, perhaps by your dancing, by your skits, and finally by your enthusiasm.’

We need the enthusiasm of the young.
  We need their joie de vivre. In it is reflected something of the original joy God made in creating man. The young experience this same joy within themselves. This joy is the same everywhere, but it is also every new and original. The young know how to express this joy in their own special way.

It is not true that the Pope brings the young form one end to the world to the other. It is they who bring him. 
Even though he is getting older, they urge him to be young, they do not permit him to forget this experience, his discovery of youth and its great importance for the life of every man. I believe this explains a great deal.

The very day of the inauguration of my papal ministry, on October 22nd 1978, at the conclusion of the liturgy, I said to the young people gathered in St. Peter’s Square: ‘You are the hope of the Church and of the world. You are my hope.’ I have often repeated these words."

If you've been to a WYD & would be happy to share something of your experience, please do contact the Totus2us team. We so want to give witness to these grace-filled, happy, wonderful, life-affirming, friend-making, faith-building and courage-giving days. There are testimonies on the Totus2us podcast World Youth Days.