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The history


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Theme: «Always be prepared to make a defence to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you» (1Pt 3, 15)

In its first edition, at the diocesan level, Pope John Paul II introduced World Youth Day to the young people and underlined its importance as a day of hope. “In Jesus Christ, God definitively entered the history of Mankind. You, young people, should find him first. You should find him constantly. World Youth Day means precisely this: to search for an encounter with God, who entered the history of Mankind through the Paschal mystery of Jesus Christ”, he said on Palm Sunday, 23 March 1986.



Theme: «We ourselves have known and put our faith in God’s love towards ourselves» (1Jn 4: 16)
Anthem: Um nuevo sol [A new sun]

Around 900 thousand young people gathered in Buenos Aires, the city chosen by the Pope to host the first international celebration of WYD. In a country seeking to heal the wounds of a military dictatorship, which is still very much alive in the memory and lives of its citizens, the pilgrims listened to the Holy Father asking them to be witnesses of God’s love. “Commit your youthful energy to building a civilization of love”, stressed John Paul II, who based his speech on 21 questions raised by the young participants.



Theme: «I am the way, the truth, and the life» (Jn 14: 6)
Anthem: Somos los jóvenes del 2000 [We are the youth of 2000]

In August 1989, around three months prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall, 600 thousand young people prayed for peace in Santiago de Compostela. “Discovering Christ, always again and always more fully, is the most wonderful adventure of our life”, said the Pope to the throng, also referring to the testimony of faith of Saint James, and stressing the role of the Santiago Trail as “a pathway to conversion and a witness to faith”. In this edition of WYD, the Pope walked the last part of the trail to the Cathedral of Santiago. He went on foot with the support of a cane, like so many of the pilgrims.



Theme: «You have received a spirit of sonship» (Rom 8:15)
Anthem: Abba Ojcze [Abba Father]

With the fall of the Communist regime, the celebration of WYD in 1991 was held in Poland, with a large participation of young people from Eastern Europe. In total, there were around one and a half million pilgrims. “After a long period of almost insurmountable frontiers, the Church in Europe can finally breathe with both lungs”, stated the Polish Pope. The anthem of this WYD-— Abba Ojcze — became a popular song for several generations.



Theme: «I came so everyone would have life, and have it fully» (Jn 10:10)
Anthem: We are one Body

It was in the streets of Denver that the Stations of the Cross were re-enacted for the first time at WYD. Since then, this celebration has been part of the official programme. At this WYD in the United States, Pope John Paul II said that it was a “celebration of life” and made an appeal: “The Church needs your energies, your enthusiasm, your youthful ideals, in order to make the Gospel of life penetrate the fabric of society, transforming people’s hearts and the structures of society in order to create a civilization of true justice and love”.



Theme: «As the Father sent me, so am I sending you» (Jn 20:21)
Anthem: Tell the World of His love

The 10th World Youth Day was held in the Philippines, the country with the highest percentage of Catholics in Asia, and also one of the most expressive in the world. In the closing mass of WYD in Manila, over four million young people were present, many of whom were from social contexts characterised by poverty and inequality. “This is the message you should proclaim to the modern world: especially to the less fortunate, to those who have no home, to the outcasts, to the sick, the abandoned, to those who suffer at the hands of others. You should say to each one of them: look to Jesus Christ to see what you really are in the eyes of God”, said the Pope.



Theme: «Master where do you live? Come and see» (Jn 1, 38:39)
Anthem : Maître et Seigneur, venu chez nous [Master and Lord, Come to us]

During WYD in Paris, over half a million young people filled the streets of the French capital with joy and fraternity. This edition was marked by several innovations: the inclusion of Days in the Dioceses (a gathering prior to the week of WYD) and the Youth Festival (cultural and artistic programme seeking to demonstrate the talent of young people in areas such as music or acting). At the end of the homily of the closing mass at the Longschamp Racecourse, John Paul II left the following message: “Dear young people, your path does not end here. Time does not stop today. Go forth now along the roads of the world, along the roads of humanity, staying united in the Church of Christ!”



Theme: «The Word became flesh and dwelt among us» (Jn 1:14)
Anthem: Emmanuel

Emmanuel, the WYD anthem of Rome in 2000, has become one of the most popular ever, and has inspired millions of young people around the world. It was also at WYD in Rome that Pope John Paul II introduced the icon of Our Lady Salus Populi Romani, which remained at the altar in Tor Vergata, where the vigil and mass took place. This icon has become one of the symbols of World Youth Day, along with the Cross. More than two million young people participated in this celebration of WYD, in the Jubilee of the year 2000, and listened to John Paul II who talked about the love of God: “Yes, dear friends, Christ loves us and he loves us forever! He loves us even when we disappoint him, when we fail to meet his expectations for us. He never fails to embrace us in his mercy.”



Theme: «You are the salt of the earth […] you are the light of the world » (Mt 5, 13:14)
Anthem: Light of the world

In the last WYD presided over by Pope John Paul II, His Holiness asked the young people again to commit themselves to building a more compassionate and fraternal world. “With your faith, hope and love, with your intelligence, strength and perseverance, you must humanize the world in which we live”, said the Holy Father, at a time when everyone had in mind the September 11 attacks, which had occurred less than a year ago. A few months later, the WYD Cross travelled to Ground Zero in New York, where the terrorist attacks took place, bringing hope and encouragement to the city’s inhabitants.



Theme: «We have come to worship Him» (Mt 2:2)
Anthem: Venimus adorare eum

The first World Youth Day presided over by Pope Benedict XVI was held in Germany, his native country. The Holy Father was received on the banks of the Rhine by a throng of young people – he arrived by boat, an image that many immediately associated with the boat of Peter. In the closing mass in Marienfeld, around one million pilgrims listened to the Pope who proclaimed that “Jesus’ hour is the hour when love triumphs”. It was also Benedict XVI who brought a moment of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament to the WYD vigil.



Theme: «You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses» (Acts 1:8)
Anthem: Receive the Power

Around half a million pilgrims from over 200 countries and more than 600 bishops from all over the world participated in the vigil and closing mass of the first WYD in Oceania. In Sydney, Pope Benedict XVI administered the sacrament of confirmation to 24 young people, and invited all the participants to bear witness to the faith. “For those who have received this gift, nothing can ever be the same! Being “baptized” in the one Spirit means being set on fire with the love of God. Being “given to drink” of the Spirit (cf. 1 Cor 12:13) means being refreshed by the beauty of the Lord’s plan for us and for the world, and becoming in turn a source of spiritual refreshment for others”, he stressed. It was also in this edition in Australia, that WYD became available on social networks.



Theme: «Planted and Built Up in Jesus Christ, Firm in the Faith» (Col 2:7)
Anthem: Firmes en la Fe [Firm in the Faith]

With a theme that encouraged young people to remain firm in their faith, WYD Madrid 2011, attended by around two million pilgrims, flooded the streets of the Spanish capital with joy and hope, against the backdrop of the European recession. The vigil with the Pope was marked by intense rain, which did not discourage the throng of young people gathered at the Cuatro Vientos aerodrome. The next morning, the participants who had stayed overnight listened to Benedict XVI, who stated that “faith is not limited to providing information about Christ’s identity, but rather assumes a personal relationship with Him”.



Theme: «Go and make disciples among all nations» (Mt 28:19)
Anthem: Esperança do Amanhecer [Hope of the Morning]

The first World Youth Day attended by Pope Francis was held in America, his continent of origin. Over three million pilgrims took part in the vigil and closing mass at Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro. In an atmosphere of celebration and prayer, the Holy Father stressed that “the Gospel is for everyone, and not just for some” and asked the young people to be “protagonists of change”. “Continue to overcome apathy, giving a Christian response to the social and political concerns that are arising in various parts of the world,” he said. At the end of the celebration, many young people helped to collect the rubbish from the beach.



Theme: «Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy» (Mt 5:7)
Anthem: Błogosławieni miłosierni [Blessed are the merciful]

Poland, the birthplace of John Paul II, hosted this great international gathering once again, 25 years after the 1991 celebration, in Czestochowa. Over one and a half million young people from all over the world headed to WYD in Krakow, of which Saint John Paul II and Saint Faustina were patron saints. At the prayer vigil in the Campus Misericordiae, Pope Francis again asked the young people not to become complacent. “Dear young people, we didn’t come into this work to “vegetate”, to take it easy, to make our lives a comfortable sofa to fall asleep on. No, we came for another reason: to leave a mark”, said Francisco, who during WYD in Krakow also visited the Nazi concentration camps in Auschwitz and Birkenau, where he remained in silence and prayer for some minutes.



Theme: «Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word» (Lk 1:38)
Anthem: Hágase en mi según tu palabra [Be it unto me according to thy word]

The theme of WYD 2019 in Panama – the first in Central America – coincided with the words of Our Lady to the Angel, which lent a highly Marian characteristic to this edition of WYD. In the vigil with the young people, Pope Francis referred to the Virgin Mary as “history’s greatest influencer”. “Mary, the ‘influencer’ of God. With just a few words, she was able to say ‘yes’ and to trust in the love and promises of God, the only force capable of making all things new”, said the Holy Father who used a monstrance made of bullet fragments during the celebration, alluding to the violence in Latin America. For the first time, the Pilgrim Image of Our Lady of Fatima was present at this WYD.

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