World Youth Day 2019


World Youth Day 2019 

Panama City, Panamá

For more information on Diocesan based travel for WYD 2019, Contact Claire McManus at 

Una ciudad cosmopolita

What is World Youth Day?

In 1984 at the close of the Holy Year of Redemption, over 300,000 young people from around the world responded to the invitation of His Holiness John Paul II for an International Jubilee of youth on Palm Sunday in St. Peter’s square. Looking out to the crowds who answered his invitation he said, “What a fantastic spectacle is presented on this stage by your gathering here today! Who claimed that today’s youth has lost their sense of values? Is it really true that they cannot be counted on?” It was at this gathering that the Holy Father entrusted to the youth what is now known as the World Youth Day Cross, to be carried throughout the world as a symbol of the love of Christ for humanity.

The following Palm Sunday, coinciding with the United Nation’s International Year of the Youth, Our Holy Father took the opportunity to welcome the youth of the world to Rome again. Later, announcing the institution of World Youth Day on December 20, 1985, and the first official WYD was held in 1986.

The following year brought about a new tradition when the second event and first international WYD took place in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Every Palm Sunday has since been designated as a World Youth Day, alternately celebrated at the diocesan and international levels. There have been 12 International World Youth Day celebrations, where the youth continue to answer the invitation of the Holy Father in staggering numbers and carry home the message received there to be Christ’s light to the world. While these events are organized by the clergy and laity of the Catholic Church, youth of all faiths are invited to attend and encounter Christ, making this gathering truly universal.


John Paul II left a legacy for the youth in his institution of World Youth Day, which Pope Benedict XVI has faithfully continued, carrying on the hope of His predecessor for the youth of the world, inviting them and commissioning them as Christ’s disciples to be faithful living witnesses.

What is a pilgrimage?

A pilgrimage is a journey a pilgrim makes to a sacred place for the purpose of venerating it or to ask for heavenly aid, and ultimately to come to know God better. Christian pilgrimages were first made to sites connected with the birth, life, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Shortly after, pilgrimages started being made to Rome and other sites associated with the Apostles, Saints and Christian martyrs, as well as places where there had been apparitions of the Virgin Mary. In the past, pilgrims would leave their homes, families, and comforts to walk for hundreds of miles with nothing but what they could carry on their backs. Just as the pilgrims from the early centuries, we modern pilgrims also leave our homes, families and comforts in order to journey to sacred places.

Along the journey, there are many sacrifices involved. There is suffering, hunger, pain, exhaustion, extreme weather conditions, crowds, etc… All of these involve self denial in order to obtain the ultimate goal and reach the final destination. Contrasting common misperceptions, suffering is not a punishment that each receives in direct proportion to his own sins but is a result of original sin and is part of the universal human experience, something we all experience in some form. Jesus Christ embraced his cross of suffering and death and so, too, should we embrace these sufferings with joy. Pilgrims are also called to be witnesses for Christ on their journey. As a Christian and a foreign visitor, pilgrims are ambassadors for Christ and the nation of their citizenship.

What is the meaning behind the WYD cross and icon?

The World Youth Day cross has many names: Jubilee Cross, Pilgrim Cross, and Youth Cross. It was entrusted to the youth as they were given the commission to “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 can we find salvation and redemption.”The cross set out with the young people from St. Peter’s in 1984 and has since been carried around the world, making a pilgrimage from parish to parish, diocese to diocese, and country to country.

In association with the World Youth Days, the cross will precede an international World Youth Day in a country. For example, on Palm Sunday 2009, the youth of Australia met the youth of Madrid in Rome to entrust the cross to them. Since 2006 the cross has been making its journey through the south pacific as a testimony of Christ’s love. In 2008 it was in Sydney for the 23rd World Youth Day there. Preceding the WYD in Madrid 2011 it will be carried by the youth of Spain throughout their country renewing hope in salvation and redemption through Christ.

The cross does not journey alone, however. In our time it will always be accompanied by an icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary (as Christ Himself was accompanied by his mother in history.) “It will be a sign of Mary’s motherly presence close to young people who are called, like the Apostle John, to welcome her into their lives,” said the pontiff. So the cross and icon are carried together through the world touching hearts and inspiring holiness. 

Highlights from 2016 WYD Krakow, Poland

Highlights from 2013 WYD Rio

ZENITH - Vatican News

(C) Diocese of Fall River, Ma