What is it:

World Youth Day (WYD) is the gathering of youth from all over the world with the Pope. It can be considered a pilgrimage, a celebration of youth, an expression of the universal Church and an intense moment of evangelization for the youth world. WYD opens its doors to everyone, no matter how close to or distant from the Church they are.

It is celebrated at the diocesan level on Palm Sunday, and every two, three or four years as an international gathering in a city chosen by the Pope.

Since its first edition in Rome in 1986, World Youth Day has been a celebration to explore and discover our catholic faith and the transformation of the Church.

It aims to provide all participants with a universal Church experience, fostering a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. It is a new stimulus to the faith, hope and charity of the entire host country community. With young people as its protagonists, World Youth Day also seeks to promote peace, unity and fraternity among peoples and nations around the world.

What happens:

Over the course of a week, young people from all over the world gather.

In addition to the moments of prayer, sharing and leisure, the young people enrolled in this celebration participate in various initiatives organized by the WYD team, in different locations across the host city. A main moment is from the Pope, who  celebrates the welcoming and opening ceremony, the Way of the Cross, the vigil and, on the last day, the closing mass.

Days in the dioceses:

“Days in the dioceses” is a gathering before the  WYD and involves integrating the young people from all over the world in the parish communities. During these days, the participants can get to know the host region better, as well as the local Church and its features, and as is also the case in WYD week, they stay in public or parish facilities or family homes.

The history:

In 1984, Pope John Paul II decided to organize a gathering on Palm Sunday, in Rome, to celebrate the Youth Jubilee of the Holy Year of Redemption 1983-1984.  This event expected around sixty thousand pilgrims, but it witnessed 250 thousand youth from different countries around the world. This was the being of the WYD and why we celebrate them today.  The Pope explained the creation of WYD as follows: «All young people must feel accompanied by the Church: that is why the whole Church, in union with the Successor of Peter, feels more committed, at a worldwide level, to the youth of today, their concerns and requests, their openness and hopes, to respond to their aspirations, passing on the certainty that is Christ, the Truth that is Christ, the love that is Christ, through an appropriate development process».  

The Symbols

Two symbols represent the WYD:

  •  the pilgrim cross 
  •  Our Lady Salus Populi Romani.

The pilgrim cross

The 3.8 metre high pilgrim cross, built for the Holy Year in 1983, was entrusted to the young people on Palm Sunday of the following year by John Paul II, to be carried around the world. Eversince, it has been seen as a true sign of faith. 

The icon of Our Lady Salus Populi Romani

Since 2003, the pilgrim cross has been accompanied by the icon of Our Lady Salus Populi Romani, who portrays the Virgin Mary with the Child in her arms. This icon was also introduced by Pope John Paul II as a symbol of Mary’s presence among young people.