What if you had the opportunity to come together with young people from all over the world to sing, praise, share faith together…and see the Pope? World Youth Day (WYD) is an energetic global celebration created specifically for Catholic young people from around the world. It offers young Catholics from every background and culture the chance to encounter each other and truly experience the universality of their Catholic faith.
Want to know more about this global event? Read on.
When Does It Happen?
World Youth Day is held approximately every three years in a different country with a different Biblical theme each time. The next WYD will be held in Lisbon, Portugal, in 2023, with the theme “Mary arose and went with haste” (Luke 1:39).
Who Can Attend?
If you’re between the ages of 16 and 35 years old, WYD was primarily created to support and inspire you! At the same time, many bishops, priests, and nuns also attend the festivities, as well as people of all ages who are parents, chaperones, pilgrimage leaders, tour organizers, or just individuals who are inspired by the bright future they see in the hearts of the young. So in a way, World Youth Day is for everyone.
How Was It Started?
When more than 300,000 young people turned up for the International Jubilee of Youth celebration on Palm Sunday in 1984, Pope John Paul II decided it was time to give the young faithful a recurring chance to connect at a global level. He also knew it was time for the Church to re-commit herself to the youth of the world, who hold such faith and potential. Thus the very first World Youth Day was held on Palm Sunday in 1986.
Although World Youth Day is celebrated internationally every few years, Pope John Paul II invited all dioceses to celebrate WYD annually in their own way on Palm Sunday, keeping the spirit alive between the global events.
What Happens During World Youth Day?
World Youth Day is more accurately World Youth Days since the celebration typically follows a six-day schedule each time it is held. Here’s the rundown of WYD 2023 festivities that will take place:
- Tuesday: Side by side with your fellow pilgrims, you’ll be welcomed by the local Bishop (in this case Patriarch Manuel Macario do Nascimento Clemente) at an opening Mass.
- Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday mornings: You’ll visit different locations to hear inspiring talks from bishops, priests, and other leaders.
- Thursday: The Pope arrives! Celebrate with an energizing concert and youth rally before the Holy Father delivers a special address for the youth.
- Friday evening: Pray the Stations of the Cross led by the Pope.
- Saturday: Walk 10–15 miles to the vigil site, where you’ll attend a prayer vigil with the Pope, listen to talks and music, participate in Adoration, and ultimately spend the night under the stars.
- Sunday morning: Attend a closing Mass led by the Holy Father, and find out where the next World Youth Day will be held!
What Is the World Youth Day Cross?
You may know it as the Jubilee Cross, the Holy Year Cross, or the Young People Cross. It’s also called the World Youth Day cross, since it has been present at every global WYD celebration. This cross originated in 1938 during the Holy Year of Redemption and was kept near the main altar in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Then Pope John Paul II delivered the legendary life-size cross to the care of the world’s youth, and ever since, it has traveled the world, accompanied by an icon of the Blessed Mother. The cross and icon have been brought to various countries on tour, but also during times of crisis to inspire hope, reverence, and prayer.
Why Does World Youth Day Matter?
World Youth Day is an incredible opportunity for young people to deepen their faith, share hope, prayerfully journey on pilgrimage, and immerse themselves in the true universality of the Church. What better way for young Catholics to be reminded that the Church loves them and believes in them? And that God loves them and believes in them? Even if you aren’t a young person, you can be inspired by WYD to look to the future with hope.