World Youth Day - Making Disciples Of All Nations

At the close of the Holy Year of Redemption on 22 April 1984, then Pope (soon saint) John Paul II, entrusted the large wooden cross used during the Jubilee Year to representatives of the world’s youth with the words: ‘My dear young people, at the conclusion of the Holy Year, I entrust to you the sign of this Jubilee Year: the Cross of Christ! Carry it throughout the world as a symbol of Christ's love for humanity, and announce to everyone that only in the death and resurrection of Christ can we find salvation and redemption’. Almost thirty years later, with typical exuberance and vigor, the young are still carrying that cross across the world, and how!

In December of the following year, the first UN-declared ‘International Youth Year’, Pope John Paul II announced the institution of World Youth Day (WYD), a coming together of the world’s young adults to celebrate their Catholic Faith. WYD was to be celebrated annually at the diocesan level on Palm Sunday in Rome and at week-long events in different countries every two to three years .

The first WYD took place in the diocese of Rome in March 1986 with the theme, ‘Always be prepared to make a defence to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you’ (1Peter 3:15)

A year later from April 11 to 12 in 1987, the first international WYD debuted with a million young people converging on Buenos Aires, Argentina, to be with their Pope. The theme was ‘We ourselves have known and put our faith in God’s love towards ourselves’ (1John 4:16).

The Holy Father chooses a Bible passage for each WYD’s theme. For international celebrations, the theme inspires the logo and anthem, is echoed in the slew of pre-WYD preparations and fully developed during the WYD week of catechesis, testimonies, sharing, opportunities for reconciliation and prayer (especially, Taizé prayer), music festivals and cultural events.

While each host country infuses its nation’s soul, history and culture in the fortnight’s activities to create a unique experience for its young guests, the main WYD events are preserved from one WYD to the next. These include the:

  • Missionary Week (Days in the Diocese or Pre-WYD)
  • Papal Welcome and Opening Ceremony
  • Way of the Cross
  • Walking pilgrimage to the Vigil/ Mass site
  • Evening Candlelight Vigil with the Pope
  • Overnight Delegates’ Camp-out at the Vigil/ Mass site
  • Sunday Morning Papal Mass

Twenty-eight years, eleven countries (Argentina, Spain, Poland, United States, Philippines, France, Italy, Canada, Germany, Australia and Brazil) and three popes later, the worldwide journey of the WYD cross continues full strength as it rallies Christ’s youth to be his face, heart, hands and feet to the rest of the world.

Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro

This year, on 23-28 July, Brazil’s Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) will welcome to the city of Rio de Janeiro, hundreds of thousands of young people from all corners of the world who have gathered together again for World Youth Day! They will come to pray, worship and celebrate their Faith, and they will leave renewed in spirit and purpose as they revitalize the Universal Church with the zeal, strength and confidence of millions of young missionaries.

Christ invites us:

Come to me, be my friends.
Christ, He sends us:
‘Go! Be missionaries!’

- from the official WYD Rio 2013 Anthem, ‘Hope of the Dawn’.