World Youth Day

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World Youth Day (WYD) is an event for young people organized by the Roman Catholic Church.

World Youth Day was initiated by Pope John Paul II in 1985. For the first celebration of WYD in 1986, bishops all over the world were invited to schedule an annual youth event to be held every Palm Sunday in their dioceses. It is celebrated at the diocesan level annually, and at the international level every two to three years at different locations. The 1995 World Youth Day closing Mass in the Philippines set a world record for the largest number of people gathered for a single religious event (with 5 million attendees)— a record surpassed when 6 million attended a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis in the Philippines 20 years later in 2015.

The Church designated Saint John Paul II and Blessed Teresa of Calcutta as the patron saints of the event.

Traditional process

World Youth Day is commonly celebrated in a way similar to many events. The most emphasized and well known traditional theme is the unity and presence of numerous different cultures. Flags and other national declarations are displayed among, mainly young people to show their attendance at the events and proclaim their own themes of Catholicism. Such is usually done through chants and singing of other national songs involving a Catholic theme.

Over the course of the major events taking place, national objects are traded between pilgrims. Flags, shirts, crosses, and other Catholic icons are carried amongst pilgrims which are later traded as souvenirs to other people from different countries of the world. A unity of acceptance among people is also common, with all different cultures coming together to appreciate one another.

Other widely-recognized traditions include the Pope's public appearance, commencing with his arrival around the city in the "Popemobile" and then with his final Mass held at the event. A festival in Sydney recorded an estimated distance of a 10-kilometre walk as roads and other public transport systems were closed off.

Pope Benedict XVI criticized the tendency to view WYD as a kind of rock festival; he stressed that the event should not be considered a "variant of modern youth culture" but as the fruition of a "long exterior and interior path".[1]


1987 to 1993

1987 WYD was held in Buenos Aires, Argentina. 1989 WYD took place in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. 1991 WYD was held in Czestochowa, Poland. 1993 WYD was celebrated in Denver, United States.

1995 to 2005

At WYD 1995, 5 million youths gathered at Luneta Park in Manila, Philippines, an event recognized as the largest crowd ever by the Guinness World Records.[2] In an initial comment immediately following the event, Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, stated that over 4 million people had participated.[3]

1997 WYD was held in Paris, France. 2000 WYD took place in Rome, Italy. 2002 WYD was held in Toronto, Canada. 2005 WYD was celebrated in Cologne, Germany. Thomas Gabriel composed for the final Mass on 21 August 2005 the Missa mundi (Mass of the world), representing five continents in style and instrumentation, in a European Kyrie influenced by the style of Bach, a South American Gloria with guitars and pan flutes, an Asian Credo with sitar, an African Sanctus with drums, and an Australian Agnus Dei with didgeridoos.[4]


Sydney, Australia, was chosen as the host of the 2008 World Youth Day celebrations. At the time it was announced in 2005, WYD 2008 was commended by the then Prime Minister of Australia, John Howard, and the Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell.[5] World Youth Day 2008 was held in Sydney, with the Papal Mass held on the Sunday at Randwick Racecourse.

The week saw pilgrims from all continents participate in the Days in the Diocese program hosted by Catholic dioceses throughout Australia and New Zealand. Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Sydney on 13 July 2008 at Richmond Air Force Base. Cardinal Pell celebrated the Opening Mass at Barangaroo (East Darling Harbour) with other activities including the re-enactment of Christ's passion during the Stations of the Cross and the pope's boat cruise through Sydney Harbour. Pilgrims participated in a variety of youth festivities including visits to St Mary's Cathedral, daily catechesis and Mass led by bishops from around the world, concerts, visits to the tomb of Saint Mary MacKillop, the Vocations Expo at Darling Harbour, received the Sacrament of Reconciliation and praying before the Blessed Sacrament during Adoration. The Mass and concert at Barangaroo saw an estimated crowd of 150,000.

The event attracted 250,000 foreign visiting pilgrims to Sydney, with an estimated 400,000 pilgrims attending Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI on 20 July.[6]

Crowd at Barangaroo, Sydney, for first day of WYD08 celebrations

In May 2007, it was reported that Guy Sebastian's song "Receive the Power" had been chosen as official anthem for World Youth Day (WYD08) to be held in Sydney in 2008. The song was co-written by Guy Sebastian and Gary Pinto, with vocals by Paulini.[7][8]

"Receive the Power"[9] was used extensively throughout the six days of World Youth Day in July 2008 and also in worldwide television coverage.[10]

In November 2008 a 200-page book, Receive The Power, was launched to commemorate World Youth Day 2008.[11]


Following the celebration of Holy Mass at Randwick Racecourse in Sydney on 20 July 2008, Pope Benedict XVI announced that the next International World Youth Day 2011 would be held in Madrid, Spain. This event was held from 16–21 August 2011.

There were nine official patron saints[12] for World Youth Day 2011 in addition to Blessed John Paul II: St. Isidore, St. John of the Cross, St. Maria de la Cabeza, St. John of Avila, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Rose of Lima, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Rafael Arnaiz, and St. Francis Xavier, patron of world missions. During his address to seminarians, Benedict announced that the Spanish mystic and patron of Spanish diocesan clerics, St. John of Avila, would become a "Doctor of the Church,"[13] a designation granted to only 34 saints throughout the twenty centuries of Church history.

An estimated 2,000,000 people attended an all-night vigil to complete the week, more than expected.

Pope Francis arrives at Copacabana, 26 July 2013


Since 2002, World Youth Day has been held every three years. After the 2011 event the next World Youth Day was scheduled a year earlier than usual, in 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in order to avoid any conflict with the 2014 FIFA World Cup being held in 12 different host cities throughout Brazil and the 2016 Summer Olympics being held in Rio de Janeiro.


Pope Francis announced at the end of closing mass for World Youth Day 2013 that Kraków, Poland[14] will be the venue for World Youth Day 2016.

Chronology of celebrations

Year Date Host Continent AttendanceNote 01 Theme Anthem
[Languages] Note 02
1984 15 April Saint Peter's Square,
  Vatican City
Europe 300,000 Holy Year of the Redemption: A Festival of Hope Resta Qui Con Noi
1985 31 March Saint Peter's Square,
  Vatican City
Europe 300,000 International Youth Year
1987 11 – 12 April Buenos Aires,
South America 1,000,000 We ourselves have known and put our faith in God’s love towards ourselves (1 Jn 4:16) Un Nuevo Sol
  • First WYD outside Vatican City
  • First WYD outside Europe
  • First WYD in Southern Hemisphere
  • Final Mass held at Avenida 9 de Julio
1989 15 – 20 August Santiago de Compostela,
Europe 400,000 I am the Way, the Truth and the Life (Jn 14:6) Somos Los Jóvenes
1991 10 – 15 August Częstochowa,
Europe 1,600,000 You have received a spirit of sonship (Rom 8:15) Abba Ojcze
[Polish Italian Spanish]
  • Final Mass held at Jasna Góra Monastery
  • First WYD in a Slavic nation
  • First WYD in a post-communist country
  • First WYD in the Pope's native country
1993 10 – 15 August Denver,
 United States
North America 500,000 I came that they might have life, and have it to the full (Jn 10:10) (We Are) One Body
  • Final Mass held at Cherry Creek State Park
  • First WYD in North America, United States, and an English-language nation
1995 10 – 15 January Manila,
Asia 5,000,000 As the Father sent me, so am I sending you (Jn 20:21) Tell the World of His Love
1997 19 – 24 August Paris,
Europe 1,200,000 Teacher, where are you staying? Come and see (cf. Jn 1:38–39) Maître Et Seigneur
2000 15 – 20 August Saint Peter's Square,
  Vatican City
Europe 2,000,000 The Word became flesh and dwelt among us (Jn 1:14) Emmanuel
[Italian English French Spanish]
2002 23 – 28 July Toronto, Ontario,
North America 800,000 You are the salt of the earth ... you are the light of the world (Mt 5:13–14) Lumière Du Monde/Light Of The World
[French English Spanish Italian]
2005 16 – 21 August Cologne,
Europe 1,200,000[16][17] We have come to worship Him (Mt 2:2) Venimus Adorare Eum
[German Latin French Spanish English Italian]
2008 15 – 20 July Sydney,
Australia & Oceania 400,000[18] You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses. (Ac 1:8)

Receive the Power
[English Italian Spanish French]

2011 16 – 21 August Madrid,
Europe 1,400,000–2,000,000[20][21][22] Rooted and built up in Jesus Christ, Firm in the Faith (Col 2:7)[23] Firmes en la Fe

[Spanish English French Italian German Polish Hellenic]

  • Final mass held at Cuatro Vientos Airport
  • Last WYD attended by Pope Benedict XVI
  • Spain becomes the first country (outside the Vatican/Italy) to host WYD twice
2013 23 – 28 July Rio de Janeiro,
South America 3,700,000[25] Go and make disciples of all nations (Mt 28:19) Esperança do Amanhecer
  • Opening and Closing Mass at Copacabana Beach
  • WYD returns to South America after more than two decades
  • First WYD in a Lusophone nation
  • First WYD to be attended by Pope Francis, himself a South American.
  • The only WYD where all the major events took place in one location.
2016 25–31 July Kraków,
Europe TBD Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. (Mt 5:7)[26] Błogosławieni miłosierni
  • Second time WYD will be held in Poland
  • This will be a tribute to recently canonized St. John Paul II

Note 01Attendance numbers reflect the total number at the closing Mass which includes many locals who attended only that one event. Unless otherwise referenced, the numbers are quoted from the USCCB website.
Note 02This lists languages used in the main international version of the anthem. Local versions of the anthem in other languages (and alternate versions) may have also been produced.


Diocesan level celebrations (celebrated on Palm Sunday each year)
Date Theme
23 March 1986 Always be prepared to make a defence to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you. (1 Pt 3:15)
27 March 1988 Do whatever he tells you. (Jn 2:5)
8 April 1990 I am the vine, you are the branches. (Jn 15:5)
12 April 1992 Go into all the world and preach the Gospel. (Mk 16:15)
27 March 1994 As the Father sent me, so am I sending you. (Jn 20: 21)
31 March 1996 Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. (Jn 6:68)
5 April 1998 The Holy Spirit will teach you all things. (cf. Jn 14:26 )
28 March 1999 The Father loves you. (cf. Jn 16:27)
8 April 2001 If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. (Lk 9:23)
13 April 2003 Behold, your mother! (Jn 19:27)
4 April 2004 We wish to see Jesus. (Jn 12:21)
9 April 2006 Your word is a lamp to my feet and light to my path. (Ps 119:105)
1 April 2007 Just as I have loved you; you also should love one another. (Jn 13:34)
5 April 2009 We have set our hope on the Living God. (1 Tim 4:10)[23]
28 March 2010 Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life? (Mk 10:17)[23]
1 April 2012 Rejoice in the Lord Always (Philip 4:4)
13 April 2014 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Mt 5:3)[26]
29 March 2015 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. (Mt 5:8)[26]

Typical schedule of events

International level

World Youth Day – Overview of Week
Up to week before Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
Morning Days in the dioceses:
  • Catechetical sessions around host and nearby dioceses
Day of official arrival and welcome for pilgrims Catechetical session with participating bishops Walking pilgrimage to vigil site Closing ceremonies:
  • Morning prayers are led by participating bishops
  • Mass is celebrated by the Pope
  • Next host diocese is announced by the Pope after Mass
Afternoon Opening ceremonies
  • Holy Mass is celebrated by the local ordinary of the host diocese
Afternoon shows, music, prayer and reconciliation opportunities The Pope officially arrives at WYD and delivers his welcome address at a prayer service Afternoon shows, music, prayer and reconciliation opportunities Afternoon shows, music, prayer and reconciliation opportunities at vigil site
Evening Evening shows, music, prayer and reconciliation opportunities Stations of the Cross Eucharistic Adoration

Diocesan level

At the diocesan level celebrations are decided by a local team usually appointed by the ordinary.

Since these celebrations usually occur during Palm Sunday, it almost always includes the Mass of Passion Sunday – when Jesus' entry to Jerusalem in his final days is commemorated.

Music, prayer, reconciliation opportunities, as well as adoration of the Blessed Sacrament may also be part of the celebrations.

See also


  1. nsymmonds (22 December 2008). "Statements of Benedict XVI". Retrieved 5 December 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "World Youth Day". Fr. Gary Coulter.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Pope John Paul II to be listed in Guinness Book of Records (English)". Rome Reports.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "XX. World Youth Day 2005, Cologne". Carus-Verlag. Retrieved 22 April 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Australians delighted at 2008 World Youth Day"
  6. "400,000 fill Randwick Racecourse for WYD08 Final Mass". Archived from the original on 11 August 2008. Retrieved 5 December 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "Zenit. Australian Idol Wrote World Youth Day Anthem, retrieved on 25 May 2008". 16 May 2007. Retrieved 5 December 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Wyd2008 The World Youth Day 2008 song, Receive the Power, retrieved on 25 May 2008". Retrieved 5 December 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Receive the Power Myspace video". 26 April 2009. Retrieved 5 December 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "wyd2008. Pope Benedict XVI thanks volunteers and leaves Australia happy and blessed. Retrieved 1st March 2009". Retrieved 5 December 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Catholic News: More power for WYD pilgrims. November 25, 2008". 25 November 2008. Retrieved 5 December 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Patron saints announced for WYD 2011 in Madrid". Catholic News Agency. 4 May 2010. Retrieved 23 August 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "Pope Benedict Announces Another Doctor of the Church". Retrieved 23 August 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. 14.0 14.1 "World Youth Day 2013 Live Blog: Pope presides at closing Mass on Copacabana Beach, Rio". Catholic Herald.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. "Baptismal Vigil with Young People". 23 August 1997. Retrieved 5 December 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. WYD08 FAQs – About... Q6
  17. New South Wales Parliament Hansard[World Youth Day 2005] culminated in Pope Benedict XVI announcing on 21 August 2005 before 1.2 million people in Cologne, Germany
  18. "WYD08 Pope Benedict XVI thanks volunteers and leaves Australia happy and blessed". Retrieved 5 December 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. Hundreds of Thousands gather for pope's youth finale – SBS News Archived 30 July 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  20. "Cerca de un millón y medio de personas reciben al Papa en Cuatro Vientos" (in Spanish). 21 August 2011. Retrieved 5 December 2011.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. juan vicente boo / corresponsal en el vaticano (21 August 2011). "Dos millones de oraciones" (in Spanish). Retrieved 5 December 2011.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. "WYD: Looking back on the Pope's visit to Madrid". 24 August 2011. Retrieved 5 December 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 "Holy Father chooses themes for future World Youth Days". 16 December 2008. Retrieved 5 December 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. "Brazil to host World Youth Day, pope announces", CNN, Al Goodman, 21 August 2011
  25. "JMJ Rio 2013" (in Portuguese).CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 "Pope Francis announces themes for World Youth Days". 7 November 2013. Retrieved 7 November 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links