Bookmark and Share

World Youth Days - Jornadas Mundiales de la Juventud - Giornate Mondiali della Gioventù

"You are the hope of the Church and of the world. You are my hope."
were the words of the new Pope to the young people in St Peter's Square on 22 October 1978.

St John Paul II repeated these words many times, both at the gatherings of young people on his pilgrim journeys and in particular at World Youth Days, which had their beginnings in 1984 when JPII held an International Youth Meeting in St Peter's Square on Palm Sunday, and a week later on Easter Sunday entrusted young people with the Cross. This simple wooden Cross has been carried round the world by young people ever since. 1985 was declared an 'International Year for Youth' by the UN; Pope John Paul II wrote his apostolic letter Dilecti Amici to the youth of the world and in December announced the institution of World Youth Day.

World Youth Day has been celebrated since then on Palm Sunday every year at the diocesan level, with an annual messsage from our Holy Fathers. There have also been 14 international World Youth Days - in Buenos Aires, Santiago de Compostela, Czestochowa, Denver, Manila, Paris, Rome, Toronto, Cologne, Sydney, Madrid, Rio de Janiero, Krakow & Panama. They've taken on a 5 day structure: 3 days of catechesis, prayer and celebration, Stations of the Cross on the Friday, a pilgrimage on the Saturday for a prayer vigil with the Pope and the final Mass on the Sunday. The next international WYD will be in Lisbon in 2022.

Young people's WYD testimonies, along with our Holy Fathers' words, are included on Totus2us' World Youth Days podcast. If you've been to a WYD & would be happy to share something of your experience, please do contact the Totus2us team. We so want to give witness to these grace-filled, happy, wonderful, life-affirming, friend-making, faith-building and courage-giving days. WYD Manila 1995 is in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest gathering in the history of the world (estimates of 6 million) & GMG Rome in the Jubilee 2000 is the largest gathering in the history of Europe (over 2 million). There were about 2 million with Benedict XVI in Madrid 2011 and over 3 million on Copacabana beach with Pope Francis at JMJ Rio 2013.

All the World Youth Days are listed below, along with the theme for the annual WYD Message. Click on the links to read the words & messages of our Papas and listen to/watch recordings/footage of the international gatherings.

14th international WYD / JMJ - Panama, Panama
XXXIV World Youth Day - 22-27 January 2019
“Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done unto me according to your word.”

1st international WYD / JMJ - Buenos Aires, Argentina
II World Youth Day - 11-12 April 1987
“We ourselves have known and put our faith in God’s love towards ourselves”
Papa St John Paul II with the young people at the prayer vigil  

I World Youth Day - Palm Sunday 1986
“Always be prepared to make a defence to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you”

International Youth Meeting - Palm Sunday 1985
In this International Year for Youth, Papa St John Paul II wrote Dilecti Amici, his apostolic letter to the youth of the world, and announced the institution of World Youth Day on 20th December 1985.

International Youth Meeting - Palm Sunday 1984
In this Holy Year of the Redemption, Papa St John Paul II presented and entrusted young people with the Cross on Easter Sunday 1984.

St John Paul II
in his book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope:

"Every parish priest in Rome knows that my visits to the parish must conclude with the meeting between the Bishop of Rome and the young people of the parish. And not only in Rome, but anywhere the Pope goes, he seeks out the young and the young seek him out. Actually, in truth, it is not the Pope who is being sought out at all. The one being sought out is Christ, who knows ‘that which is in every man’ (Jn 2, 25), especially in a young person, and who can give true answers to his questions! And even if they are demanding answers, the young are not afraid of them; more to the point, they even await them.

This also explains the idea of holding World Youth Days. At the very beginning, during the Jubilee Year of Redemption, and then again for the International Year of Youth, sponsored by the United Nations (1985), young people were invited to Rome. This was the beginning. No one invented the World Youth Days. It was the young people themselves who created them. Those days, those encounters, then became something desired by young people throughout the world. Most of the time these Days were something of a surprise for priests, and even bishops, in that they surpassed all their expectations.

The World Youth Days have become a great and fascinating witness that young people give of themselves. They have become a powerful means of evangelization. In the young there is, in fact, an immense potential for good and for creative possibility. Whenever I meet them in my travels throughout the world, I wait first of all to hear what they want to tell me about themselves, about their society, about their Church. And I always point out: ‘What am I going to say to you is not as important as what you are going to say to me. You will not necessarily say it to me in words; you will say it to me by your presence, by your song, perhaps by your dancing, by your skits, and finally by your enthusiasm.’

We need the enthusiasm of the young. We need their joie de vivre. In it is reflected something of the original joy God made in creating man. The young experience this same joy within themselves. This joy is the same everywhere, but it is also every new and original. The young know how to express this joy in their own special way.

It is not true that the Pope brings the young form one end to the world to the other. It is they who bring him. Even though he is getting older, they urge him to be young, they do not permit him to forget this experience, his discovery of youth and its great importance for the life of every man. I believe this explains a great deal.

The very day of the inauguration of my papal ministry, on 22nd October 1978, at the conclusion of the liturgy, I said to the young people gathered in St. Peter’s Square: ‘You are the hope of the Church and of the world. You are my hope.’ I have often repeated these words."

Dearest Young People - Queridísimos Jóvenes - Chers Jeunes - Carissimi Giovani - Droga Młodzieży - Kedves Fiatalok - Caríssimos Jovens - Meine Lieben Jugendlichen - Beste Jonge Mensen - Αγαπητοί Νέοι και Νέες - 親愛的青年朋友 - Dragi Prijatelji - Të Dashur Të Rinj - Dragi Prieteni - Дорогие друзья - Các Bạn Trẻ Thân Mến - Дорогі друзі

"So, my young friends, I hand you this Letter which continues the Gospel conversation of Christ with the young man - and flows from the testimony of the Apostles & of the first generations of Christians. I give you this Letter in International Youth Year, as we approach the end of the second Christian millennium. I entrust it to you in the 20th year since the close of the Second Vatican Council, which called young people "the hope of the Church" and which addressed to the young people of that time - as also to those of today & of all time - a "closing Message" in which the Church is described as the real youth of the world, as the one who "possesses what constitutes strength & the charm of youth, that is to say, the ability to rejoice with what is beginning, to give oneself unreservedly, to renew oneself & to set out again for new conquests". This I do on Palm Sunday, the day on which I am meeting many of you, pilgrims in Saint Peter's Square, here in Rome. Precisely on this day the Bishop of Rome prays together with you for all the young people of the world, for each & every one. We are praying in the community of the Church, so that - against the background of the difficult times in which we live - you "may always be prepared to make a defence to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you". Yes, precisely you, because on you depends the future, on you depends also the end of this millennium & the beginning of the next. So do not be passive; take up your responsibilities - in all the fields open to you in our world!"
- Papa St JPII, in his Apostolic Letter to the young people of the World

Catechesis by St John Paul II to Young People
General Audience, Wednesday 25 July 1979 - also in French, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. Today I wish to turn my thought to youth. It is holiday time. Young people and children are free from the commitments of school and university and dedicate this period to rest. I wish to greet cordially all the young people and children who are resting, and I hope that the holidays will bring them a new lease of the energy that they need for the new year of studies. Rest belongs not only to the human order, but also to the divine programme of human life. He rests well who works well and, in his turn, he who works well must rest well.

My thought goes, in particular, to those numerous groups of young people, who make their summer rest coincide with the deepening of their relationship with God, with the deepening of their spiritual life. I have known many of these groups of young people personally since the time of my preceding service as a priest and bishop in Poland. I have already been informed here of many other groups. Certainly, in various countries of Europe and of the world we meet with a very marked search for spiritual and religious values in the young. The fact that it is not possible to fill one's life only with materialistic contents and values, seems to be felt very deeply by the young. From this are derived aspirations and quests which can only be a source of comfort and hope for us. They bear witness to man, who wishes to live his life fully, to breathe his own human personality deeply, as it were. Life reduced to the one dimension—temporality, matter, the consumer mentality— brings forth contestations.

2. Significant for the circles of the young, of whom I am thinking at this moment, is the pursuit, especially at this period of the year, of closer contact with nature. The mountain slopes, the woods, the lakes, the seashores draw immense crowds during summer. However, for many groups of young people, that rest which man finds within nature becomes a special occasion for a closer contact with God. And they find it again in the exuberant beauty of nature, which, throughout history, has become a source of religious inspiration for many spirits and many hearts. In this twofold encounter, they find themselves again, they find again their deeper "self, their inner self. Nature helps them to do so. Man's inner self becomes, in contact with nature, more transparent, as it were, to man and more open to deep reflection and to the action of Grace which waits for the inner absorption of the young heart in order to act more efficaciously.

3. Having been in contact with young groups of this kind for many years, I have noted that their spirituality rests on two sources which nourish youthful souls almost parallelly. One of them is Holy Scripture, the other the Liturgy. The reading of Holy Scripture, together with systematic reflection on its content, aiming at the revision of one's life, becomes a rich source to find oneself again and renew the spirit within the community. And, at the same time, this process of the "liturgy of the Word", developed in various directions, leads by the simplest way to the Eucharist lived with the depth of young hearts and always, at the same time, within a community. Around the Eucharist, this community and all the ties that spring from it, take on new strength and depth: ties of comradeship, friendship and love, to which young hearts are particularly open in this period of life. The permanent presence of Christ, his closeness in the Eucharist, offer these ties a dimension of particular beauty and nobility

4. The youthful circles and groups, to which I am referring at this moment, are usually full of real and youthful joy. I have sometimes admired how this joy and spontaneousness went hand in hand with love for order and discipline. This fact was already in itself a proof that man can be educated only from within, with the power of a spiritual ideal, by making him see the simple contours of truth and the aspect of true love in which Christ placed human life. I myself came back from these meetings more joyful and more " rested" spiritually. "The beauty of joy" is as important for man as "the beauty of love".

The special expression of this joy is always song. Today, there still resound in my ears the groups of young people singing who have given rise to the new style of singing or rather of the religious songs of today. This phenomenon would deserve a special analysis.

5. There are also groups that like to go on pilgrimages. Modern man, more than in preceding generations, is a man "on his way". This applies particularly to the young.

These groups of young pilgrims (in the strict sense of the word) are many in number. The pilgrimage often becomes the completion of a tourist trip, even though its character is different. I am thinking particularly of a pilgrimage which starts out from Warsaw to Jasna Góra every year, at the beginning of August. Young people make up the vast majority of the pilgrims, who walk for ten days (sometimes in difficult conditions) covering about 300 km. Among these young pilgrims, there is a group, more numerous every year, formed by young Italians.

6. A few weeks ago there took place in Rome the fourth Symposium organized by the Council of European Episcopal Conferences on the subject: "The young and faith". The more than seventy prelates, representing the bishops of Europe, analysed thoroughly the situation of the young today with regard to faith, and the main characteristics of their religious outlook.

Although not concealing a certain concern about some attitudes of rejection of some traditional values on the part of the young, the Bishops stressed that the young people of today are discovering the Church more and more as a community of faith; they approach the Gospel and the person of Jesus Christ with particular commitment; they feel deeply the value of meditation and prayer.

Let all that I have said be a supplement to that central theme with which the representatives of the Episcopal Conferences of nearly the whole of Europe dealt in June. Let these words of mine be a proof to all the young, especially those who are seeking God during the holidays, that the Pope remembers them and asks Christ for "the beauty of joy" and "the beauty of love" for them.


Ai giovani

"A tutti i giovani e ragazzi che sono presenti a questo incontro, giunga ancora una volta il mio saluto più cordiale, con l’augurio affettuoso di buone vacanze, vissute nello spirito di cui ho fatto cenno. In particolare auspico, cari giovani, che le vostre ferie estive, come tutta l’esistenza, siano trascorse in conformità alle profonde esigenze della verità che è in voi, e che ha nome: Gesù Cristo."

To sick people

"An embrace for you, dear sick people." I wish to remind you that "God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong" (1 Cor 1:27). Before the reality of pain Christian faith offers a Presence: the presence of One who suffered and died on the cross, and then was victorious, rising from the dead. His victory is ours too, and through him we have a hope of life and resurrection, which does not fail us. Take heart. May the Lord assist you with his grace and his comfort. May my blessing sustain you."

To newly weds

"Dear newlyweds, welcome to this Audience. Your presence is—as always—very significant. In the new life you have started at the foot of the Lord's altar, the problem for Christian spouses is not just to love each other, but to feel and love God's presence among you: it is a question of knowing that you are a living part of the Church of Christ. Commit yourselves to living your Christian faith intensely. My most fervent good wishes and my blessing go to you."