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World Youth Day: A look back at the bond between the youth and the Pope

18 luglio 2013

July 17, 2013. ( The exact date when World Youth Day started is not very clear. But one though is quite clear. It all started thanks to John Paul II. The Polish Pope was convinced that youths don’t just need good advice; rather, they also need someone to accompany them and teach them how to express themselves in the best way.   

John Paul II
“Like I said since the first day of my pontificate, you are the Pope’s hope, you are the Church’s hope.”

This Mass was the founding base of WYD. In 1984, the Pope ended the Holy Year of Redemption with this meeting. He gave them a wooden cross as a reminder of their encounter

John Paul II
Rome, April 22, 1984
“My dear young people, at the conclusion of the Holy Year, I entrust to you the sign of this Jubilee Year: the Cross of Christ! Carry it throughout the world as a symbol of Christ’s love for humanity, and announce to everyone that only in the death and resurrection of Christ we can find salvation and redemption.”

A year later, the United Nations celebrated the International Youth Year, and thousands of youths flocked to Rome once again to celebrate it with the Pope. A few months later, on December 20th, 1985, Pope John Paul II summoned the very first WYD, which was to be held in Rome in 1986. The second meeting was in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1987.

Since then, WYD became a distinctive feature of John Paul II’s pontificate. Every two or three years, the Pope met with thousands of youths in cities such as Santiago de Compostela, Czestochowa, Denver, Manila, Paris and Toronto.

John Paul II
World Youth Day, Rome 2000
“You will not resign yourselves to a world where other human beings die of hunger, remain illiterate or have no work. You will defend life at every moment of its development; you will strive with all your strength to make this earth ever more livable for all people.”

Pope Benedict XVI followed in his predecessor’s footsteps, and the response he had was always great. Thousands of pilgrims reached Cologne, Germany, for WYD in 2005; Sidney in 2008 and Madrid in 2011.

Benedict XVI
Marienfeld (Germany), 2005
“I know that you as young people have great aspirations, that you want to pledge for a better world. Demonstrate this to mankind, demonstrate this to the world.”

A new generation of youths, and most of all a new Pope await WYD 2013 in Rio. But since there seems to be a strong chemistry between Pope Francis and the youth,  the event will surely be a success. 

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