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Apostolic Movement

10 interesting facts about WYD and its history

Only those who have experienced a World Youth Day know the impact it can have. It is impossible to say how many lives are impacted, reaching new directions, as a result of this experience. Let us take a look at how WYD came about and other interesting details.

How did World Youth Day come about?

WYD was created by Pope John Paul II in 1984, during the Holy Year of Redemption (1983-1984). He wanted to celebrate the Holy Year in a special way with young people, so he organized a one-day gathering at the Vatican.

60,000 pilgrims were expected at the Vatican, but surprisingly 250,000 people turned up, coming from many countries. Because of this turnout, the Holy Father decided to repeat the experience the following year. In 1985, 300,000 young people came to Rome for the event. Due to the success of the event, John Paul II wrote an Apostolic Letter on December 20, 1985, announcing the establishment of WYD in the Church’s calendar.

Pope John Paul II on his last WYD: the edition of Toronto, in Canada, in 2002

In some languages, such as English and German, the event still carries the word “day” in its name. This is because WYD was originally intended to be held on a single day. Today, however, the event takes place over the course of an entire week. This has led translations from other languages, such as Spanish and Portuguese, to adopt the word “journey”.

How often is WYD celebrated?

WORLD Youth Day is held every 4 years, while countries and dioceses organize local annual events.

Where will the next WYD be held?

There are several articles circulating on the Internet suggesting which country will host the next WYD. However, the official announcement will be made by the Pope at the end of this year’s event, and only then will it be possible to know the exact location.

Countries and mottos of all WYD events

The following is a list of the year, country, city and motto of each WYD:

1986 – ROME, ITALY
Motto: “Always be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for your hope” (1Pet 3:15).

1987 – BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA
Motto: “We have come to know and believe in God’s love for us” (1 Jn 4:16).

1989 – SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA, SPAIN
Motto: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life” (Jn 14:6)

1991 – CZENSTOCHOWA, POLAND
Motto: “You have received the spirit of sonship” (Rom 8:15).

1993 – DENVER, UNITED STATES
Motto: “I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly” (Jn 10:10).

1995 – MANILA, PHILIPPINES
Motto: “As the Father has sent me, so I also send you” (Jn 20:21).

1997 – PARIS, FRANCE
Motto: “Teacher, where do you live? Come and see” (Jn 1:38-39).

2000 – ROME, ITALY
Motto: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14).

2002 – TORONTO, CANADA
Motto: “You are the salt of the earth, you are the light of the world” (Mt 5:13.14).

2005 – COLOGNE, GERMANY
Motto: “We have come to worship Him” (Mt 2:2)

2008 – SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA
Motto: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8).

2011 – MADRID, SPAIN
Motto: “Rooted and built up in Christ, firm in the faith” (Col 2:7).

2013 – RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL
Motto: “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19).

2016 – CRACOW, POLAND
Motto: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall find mercy” (Mt 5:7).

2019 – PANAMA CITY, PANAMA
Motto: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38)

2023 – LISBON, PORTUGAL
Motto: “Mary arose and departed in haste” (Lk 1:39). (Lk 1:39)

10 interesting facts about the various World Youth Days

1) In Spain, in 1989, Pope John Paul II walked the last part of the Way of St. James, up to the Cathedral, which is the final destination of the route. He walked using a walking stick, as many pilgrims do.

2) The first Way of the Cross of WYD took place in the streets of Denver, United States. Since then, this activity has been part of the official program of the event.

3) The largest edition of WYD in terms of pilgrims took place in 1995. Four million people participated in Manila, Philippines. For many years, this meeting held the record for the largest papal event in history. However, the record was broken in 2015, with a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis at the same location, which was attended by close to six million people.

4) At the Manila meeting, a terrorist group intended to attack Pope John Paul II. The idea was to blow up the popemobile, using a suicide bomber disguised as a priest. They also planned to bomb several airplanes. However, the plan was discovered four days earlier, when the group’s residence was accidentally set on fire.

Saint John Paul II in the Paris, France edition

5) WYD in Paris in 1997 was marked by several innovations: the introduction of the Days in the Dioceses (an encounter that precedes the week of WYD) and the Youth Festival (a cultural and artistic program that aims to highlight the talents of young people in areas such as music or acting).

6) The hymn “Emmanuel”, one of the most popular in history, was featured in the 2000 edition. That was also the year Pope John Paul II introduced the icon of Our Lady Salus Populi Romani, which became one of the official symbols.

7) By chance, Pope Benedict XVI attended the first WYD as pontiff in his native Germany. When he was elected in the conclave, the event was already scheduled. The 2005 Cologne edition was also marked by the first youth vigil, with Eucharistic adoration, which today is the highlight of the event.

Pope Benedict XVI in Cologne, Germany

8) The first Youth Day held in Oceania took place in Sydney (Australia). There, Pope Benedict XVI chrismated 24 youth. It was also in this edition that WYD began to be featured on social networks.

9) The largest monstrance in the world was used for Eucharistic adoration at WYD in Madrid in 2011. It measures three meters high (almost 10 ft.), weighs 180 kilos (almost 400 lbs.) and was made in 1520 by Enrique de Arfe.

10) WYD Panama had a Marian motto for the first time. Pope Francis spoke of Mary as “the greatest influencer in history”.

Pope Francis at WYD in Panama

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