World Youth Day

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Map of World Youth Day locations. Countries that have hosted at least one WYD are shaded green. World Youth Day locations.png
Map of World Youth Day locations. Countries that have hosted at least one WYD are shaded green.

World Youth Day (WYD) is an event for young people organized by the Catholic Church. The next, World Youth Day 2022, will be held in Portugal.

Catholic Church Largest Christian church, led by the Bishop of Rome

The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with approximately 1.3 billion baptised Catholics worldwide as of 2017. As the world's oldest and largest continuously functioning international institution, it has played a prominent role in the history and development of Western civilisation. The church is headed by the Bishop of Rome, known as the pope. Its central administration, the Holy See, is in the Vatican City, an enclave within the city of Rome in Italy.

World Youth Day 2022 will be a Catholic festival held in Lisbon, Portugal, and it will be celebrated in summer 2022. This was announced by Pope Francis and Cardinal Kevin Farrell at the end of the closing Mass of World Youth Day 2019 in Panama City, Panama.

Portugal Republic in Southwestern Europe

Portugal, officially the Portuguese Republic, is a country located mostly on the Iberian Peninsula in southwestern Europe. It is the westernmost sovereign state of mainland Europe, being bordered to the west and south by the Atlantic Ocean and to the north and east by Spain. Its territory also includes the Atlantic archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira, both autonomous regions with their own regional governments.


World Youth Day was initiated by Pope John Paul II in 1985. Its concept has been influenced by the Light-Life Movement that has existed in Poland since the 1960s, where during summer camps Catholic young adults over 13 days of camp celebrated a "day of community". For the first celebration of WYD in 1986, bishops were invited to schedule an annual youth event to be held every Palm Sunday in their dioceses. It is celebrated at the diocesan level annually, and at the international level every two to three years at different locations. The 1995 World Youth Day closing Mass in the Philippines set a world record for the largest number of people gathered for a single religious event with 5 million attendees a record surpassed when 6 million attended a Mass celebrated by Pope Francis in the Philippines 20 years later in 2015.[ citation needed ]

Pope John Paul II 264th Pope of the Catholic Church, saint

Pope John Paul II was head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State from 1978 to 2005.

Palm Sunday Christian feast

Palm Sunday is a Christian moveable feast that falls on the Sunday before Easter. The feast commemorates Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, an event mentioned in each of the four canonical Gospels.

Diocese Christian district or see under the supervision of a bishop

The word diocese is derived from the Greek term dioikesis (διοίκησις) meaning "administration". Today, when used in an ecclesiastical sense, it refers to the ecclesiastical district under the jurisdiction of a bishop. Sometimes it is also called bishopric.

Traditional process

World Youth Day is commonly celebrated in a way similar to many events. The most emphasized and well known traditional theme is the unity and presence of numerous different cultures. Flags and other national declarations are displayed among mainly young people to show their attendance at the events and proclaim their own themes of Catholicism. Such is usually done through chants and singing of other national songs involving a Catholic theme.

Over the course of the major events taking place, national objects are traded between pilgrims. Flags, shirts, crosses, and other Catholic icons are carried amongst pilgrims which are later traded as souvenirs to other people from different countries of the world. A unity of acceptance among people is also common, with all different cultures coming together to appreciate one another.

Other widely recognized traditions include the Pope's public appearance, commencing with his arrival around the city in the "Popemobile" and then with his final Mass held at the event. A festival in Sydney (2008) recorded an estimated distance of a 10-kilometre walk as roads and other public transport systems were closed off.

A popemobile is a specially designed motor vehicle used by the Pope of the Catholic Church during public appearances. It is usually considered as the successor to the antiquated sedia gestatoria and was designed to allow the pope to be more visible when greeting large crowds.

Pope Benedict XVI criticized the tendency to view WYD as a kind of rock festival; he stressed that the event should not be considered a "variant of modern youth culture" but as the fruition of a "long exterior and interior path". [1]

Pope Benedict XVI 265th pope of the Catholic Church

Pope Benedict XVI is a retired prelate of the Catholic Church who served as head of the Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State from 2005 until his resignation in 2013. Benedict's election as pope occurred in the 2005 papal conclave that followed the death of Pope John Paul II. Benedict chose to be known by the title "pope emeritus" upon his resignation.

Rock festival Type of music festival

A rock festival is a large-scale rock music concert, featuring multiple acts performing an often diverse range of rock music including heavy metal, alternative, folk, and related genres.


1987 to 1993

1987 WYD was held in Buenos Aires, Argentina. 1989 WYD took place in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. 1991 WYD was held in Częstochowa, Poland. 1993 WYD was celebrated in Denver, Colorado, United States.

Buenos Aires Place in Argentina

Buenos Aires is the capital and largest city of Argentina. The city is located on the western shore of the estuary of the Río de la Plata, on the South American continent's southeastern coast. "Buenos Aires" can be translated as "fair winds" or "good airs", but the former was the meaning intended by the founders in the 16th century, by the use of the original name "Real de Nuestra Señora Santa María del Buen Ayre". The Greater Buenos Aires conurbation, which also includes several Buenos Aires Province districts, constitutes the fourth-most populous metropolitan area in the Americas, with a population of around 15.6 million.

Argentina Federal republic in South America

Argentina, officially the Argentine Republic, is a country located mostly in the southern half of South America. Sharing the bulk of the Southern Cone with Chile to the west, the country is also bordered by Bolivia and Paraguay to the north, Brazil to the northeast, Uruguay and the South Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the Drake Passage to the south. With a mainland area of 2,780,400 km2 (1,073,500 sq mi), Argentina is the eighth-largest country in the world, the fourth largest in the Americas, and the largest Spanish-speaking nation. The sovereign state is subdivided into twenty-three provinces and one autonomous city, Buenos Aires, which is the federal capital of the nation as decided by Congress. The provinces and the capital have their own constitutions, but exist under a federal system. Argentina claims sovereignty over part of Antarctica, the Falkland Islands, and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands.

Santiago de Compostela City and Municipality in Galicia, Spain

Santiago de Compostela is the capital of the autonomous community of Galicia, in northwestern Spain.

1995 to 2005

A view of the celebratory vibe outside the Cologne Cathedral in Germany (2005). The participation of Catholics from many countries worldwide results in an enhanced and collaborate spiritual experience. Cologne 2005 WYD.jpg
A view of the celebratory vibe outside the Cologne Cathedral in Germany (2005). The participation of Catholics from many countries worldwide results in an enhanced and collaborate spiritual experience.

At WYD 1995, 5 million youths gathered at Luneta Park in Manila, Philippines, an event recognized as the largest crowd ever by the Guinness World Records. [2] In an initial comment immediately following the event, Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, stated that over 4 million people had participated. [3]

Manila Capital and Highly Urbanized City in National Capital Region, Philippines

Manila, officially the City of Manila, is the capital and highly urbanized city of the Philippines. It is the most densely populated city proper in the world as of 2018. It was the first chartered city by virtue of the Philippine Commission Act 183 on July 31, 1901 and gained autonomy with the passage of Republic Act No. 409 or the "Revised Charter of the City of Manila" on June 18, 1949. Manila, alongside Mexico City and Madrid are considered the world's original set of Global Cities due to Manila's commercial networks being the first to traverse the Pacific Ocean, thus connecting Asia with the Spanish Americas, marking the first time in world history when an uninterrupted chain of trade routes circled the planet. Manila has been damaged by and rebuilt from wars more times than the famed city of Troy and it is also the second most natural disaster-afflicted capital city in the world next to Tokyo, yet it is simultaneously among the most populous and wealthiest cities in Southeast Asia.

Philippines Republic in Southeast Asia

The Philippines, officially the Republic of the Philippines, is an archipelagic country in Southeast Asia. Situated in the western Pacific Ocean, it consists of about 7,641 islands that are categorized broadly under three main geographical divisions from north to south: Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. The capital city of the Philippines is Manila and the most populous city is Quezon City, both part of Metro Manila. Bounded by the South China Sea on the west, the Philippine Sea on the east and the Celebes Sea on the southwest, the Philippines shares maritime borders with Taiwan to the north, Japan to the northeast, Vietnam to the west, Palau to the east, and Malaysia and Indonesia to the south.

<i>Guinness World Records</i> Reference book listing world records

Guinness World Records, known from its inception from 1955 until 2000 as The Guinness Book of Records and in previous United States editions as The Guinness Book of World Records, is a reference book published annually, listing world records both of human achievements and the extremes of the natural world. The brainchild of Sir Hugh Beaver, the book was co-founded by twin brothers Norris and Ross McWhirter in Fleet Street, London, in August 1954.

1997 WYD was held in Paris, France. 2000 WYD took place in Rome, Italy. 2002 WYD was held in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. 2005 WYD was celebrated in Cologne, Germany. Thomas Gabriel composed for the final Mass on 21 August 2005 the Missa mundi (Mass of the world), representing five continents in style and instrumentation, in a European Kyrie influenced by the style of Bach, a South American Gloria with guitars and pan flutes, an Asian Credo with sitar, an African Sanctus with drums, and an Australian Agnus Dei with didgeridoos. [4]


Sydney, Australia, was chosen as the host of the 2008 World Youth Day celebrations. At the time it was announced in 2005, WYD 2008 was commended by the then Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd, and the Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell. [5] World Youth Day 2008 was held in Sydney, with the Papal Mass held on the Sunday at Randwick Racecourse.

The week saw pilgrims from all continents participate in the Days in the Diocese program hosted by Catholic dioceses throughout Australia and New Zealand. Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Sydney on 13 July 2008 at Richmond Air Force Base. Cardinal Pell celebrated the Opening Mass at Barangaroo (East Darling Harbour) with other activities including the re-enactment of Christ's passion during the Stations of the Cross and the pope's boat cruise through Sydney Harbour. Pilgrims participated in a variety of youth festivities including visits to St Mary's Cathedral, daily catechesis and Mass led by bishops from around the world, concerts, visits to the tomb of Saint Mary MacKillop, the Vocations Expo at Darling Harbour, reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and praying before the Blessed Sacrament during Adoration. The Mass and concert at Barangaroo saw an estimated crowd of 150,000.

The event attracted 250,000 foreign visiting pilgrims to Sydney, with an estimated 400,000 pilgrims attending Mass celebrated by Pope Benedict XVI on 20 July. [6]

On 12 June 2008,, a Catholic social online network and news site, was launched as the Official Catholic Social Network of WYD. [7] It is considered to be a direct fruit of WYD08, just as Salt + Light Television was a direct fruit of WYD 2002 in Toronto.

Crowd at Barangaroo, Sydney, for first day of WYD08 celebrations WYD-2008.JPG
Crowd at Barangaroo, Sydney, for first day of WYD08 celebrations

In May 2007, it was reported that Guy Sebastian's song "Receive the Power" had been chosen as official anthem for World Youth Day (WYD08) to be held in Sydney in 2008. The song was co-written by Guy Sebastian and Gary Pinto, with vocals by Paulini. [8] [9]

"Receive the Power" [10] was used extensively throughout the six days of World Youth Day in July 2008 and also in worldwide television coverage. [11]

In November 2008, a 200-page book, Receive the Power, was launched to commemorate World Youth Day 2008. [12]


Following the celebration of Holy Mass at Randwick Racecourse in Sydney on 20 July 2008, Pope Benedict XVI announced that the next International World Youth Day 2011 would be held in Madrid, Spain. This event was held from 16–21 August 2011.

There were nine official patron saints [13] for World Youth Day 2011 in addition to Pope St. John Paul II: St. Isidore, St. John of the Cross, St. María de la Cabeza, St. John of Ávila, St. Teresa of Ávila, St. Rose of Lima, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Rafael Arnáiz, and St. Francis Xavier patron of world missions. During his address to seminarians, Benedict announced that the Spanish mystic and patron of Spanish diocesan clerics St. John of Ávila would become a "Doctor of the Church", [14] a designation granted to only 34 saints throughout the twenty centuries of Church history.

An estimated 2,000,000 people attended an all-night vigil to complete the week, more than expected.

Pope Francis arrives at Copacabana, 26 July 2013 Francisco Papa Jornada Mundial de la Juventud Rio de Janeiro Julio 2013 A.JPG
Pope Francis arrives at Copacabana, 26 July 2013


Since 2002, World Youth Day has been held every three years. After the 2011 event the next World Youth Day was scheduled a year earlier than usual, in 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in order to avoid any conflict with the 2014 FIFA World Cup being held in 12 different host cities throughout Brazil and the 2016 Summer Olympics being held in Rio de Janeiro. More than 3 Million catholic youth had gathered for the event from across the world.


Pope Francis announced at the end of closing Mass for World Youth Day 2013 that Kraków, Poland, would be the venue for World Youth Day 2016. [15] An estimated three million people attended. Young people from many different countries around the world took part in the week-long event which began on 25 July 2016, and ended on 31 July 2016 with an open-air mass led by Pope Francis at Campus Misericordiae where he announced that the next World Youth Day will take place in Panama, Central America in 2019. The theme for this year's World Youth Day was "Blessed Are The Merciful, For They Shall Obtain Mercy", tying in closely with the Year of Mercy, which was initiated by Pope Francis on 8 December 2015 and concluded 20 November 2016.


At the Concluding Mass for World Youth Day 2016 in Kraków, Pope Francis announced that Panama City would host World Youth Day in 2019. [16] The World Youth Day was held from Tuesday 22 January until Sunday 27 January.


At the concluding mass in Panama City, Cardinal Kevin Farell announced that the next World Youth Day will be in Lisbon, Portugal, in 2022 [17]

Chronology of celebrations

#YearDateCityCountryContinentAttendance [18]
Note 01
ThemeAnthemMass venueNotes
1 1984 14–15 April Vatican City Flag of the Vatican City.svg   Vatican City Europe 300,000 Holy Year of the Redemption: A Festival of Hope"Resta Qui Con Noi" Saint Peter's Square
  • Pope John Paul II entrusts the WYD Cross to the Youth
  • First WYD in Southern Europe
  • First WYD in Europe
  • First WYD in a Romance-language-speaking (Italian) country
2 1985 30–31 March Rome Flag of Italy.svg  Italy Europe300,000 International Youth Year "Christus Pax Nostra" Saint Peter's Square
  • Second WYD in Southern Europe
  • Second WYD in Europe
3 1987 6–12 April Buenos Aires Flag of Argentina.svg  Argentina South America 1,000,000"We have recognized the love that God has for us, and we have believed in it."(1 Jn 4:16)"Un Nuevo Sol"
Avenida 9 de Julio
  • First WYD outside Vatican City
  • First WYD outside Europe
  • First WYD in South America
  • First WYD outside Rome to be held outside the months of July/August.
  • First WYD in Southern Hemisphere
4 1989 19–20 August Santiago de Compostela Flag of Spain.svg  Spain Europe600,000I am the Way, the Truth and the Life (Jn 14:6)"Somos Los Jóvenes"
Monte do Gozo
  • First WYD in Southwestern Europe
  • Third WYD in Europe
5 1991 10–15 August Częstochowa Flag of Poland.svg  Poland Europe1,600,000You have received a spirit of children (Rom 8:15)"Abba Ojcze"
Jasna Góra Monastery
  • First WYD in Central Europe
  • Fourth WYD in Europe
  • First WYD in a Slavic-language-speaking (Polish) country
  • First WYD in the Pope's native country
6 1993 10–15 August Denver Flag of the United States.svg  United States North America 700,000I came that they might have life, and have it to the full (Jn 10:10)"(We Are) One Body"
Cherry Creek State Park
  • First WYD in North America
  • First WYD in a Germanic-language-speaking (English) country
7 1995 10–15 January Manila Flag of the Philippines.svg  Philippines Asia 5,000,000As the Father has sent me, so am I sending you (Jn 20:21)"Tell the World of His Love"
Luneta Park
8 1997 19–24 August Paris Flag of France.svg  France [19] Europe1,200,000Teacher, where do you live? Come and see (cf. Jn 1:38–39)"Maître Et Seigneur"
Longchamp Racecourse
9 2000 15–20 August Rome Flag of Italy.svg  Italy Europe2,000,000The Word has became flesh and dwelt among us (Jn 1:14)"Emmanuel"
Tor Vergata
  • Held on the occasion of the Great Jubilee
  • Third WYD in Southern Europe
  • Sixth WYD in Europe
10 2002 23–28 July Toronto Flag of Canada (Pantone).svg  Canada North America800,000You are the salt of the earth ... you are the light of the world (Mt 5:13–14)"Lumière Du Monde/Light Of The World"
Downsview Park
11 2005 16–21 August Cologne Flag of Germany.svg  Germany Europe1,000,000 [20] [21] We have come to worship Him (Mt 2:2)"Venimus Adorare Eum"
  • First WYD attended by Pope Benedict XVI, himself a native German.
  • Second WYD in Western Europe
  • Seventh WYD in Europe
12 2008 15–20 July Sydney Flag of Australia (converted).svg  Australia Oceania 400,000 [22] You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses. (Ac 1:8)"Receive the Power"
Randwick Racecourse
  • First WYD in Oceania
13 2011 16–21 August Madrid Flag of Spain.svg  Spain [23] Europe1,400,000- 2,000,000 [24] [25] [26] Rooted and built up in Jesus Christ, Firm in the Faith (Col 2:7) [27] "Firmes en la Fe" Cuatro Vientos Airport
  • Last WYD attended by Pope Benedict XVI
  • Second WYD in Southwestern Europe
  • Eighth WYD in Europe
14 2013 23–28 July Rio de Janeiro Flag of Brazil.svg  Brazil [28] South America3,700,000 [29] Go and make disciples of all nations (Mt 28:19)"Esperança do Amanhecer"
Copacabana Beach
  • First WYD attended by Pope Francis, himself from South America
  • Second WYD in South America
  • The first WYD where all the major events took place in one location
15 2016 26–31 July Kraków Flag of Poland.svg  Poland Europe3,500,000 [30] Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. (Mt 5:7) [31] "Błogosławieni miłosierni"
Brzegi, Wieliczka County
16 2019 22–27 January Panama City Flag of Panama.svg  Panama Central America700,000 [32] I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word (Lk 1:38) [33] "Hágase en mí, según tu palabra"
Metro Park, Juan Díaz, Panama City
  • First WYD to take place in Central America
  • Third WYD outside Rome to be held outside the months of July/August.
17 2022 Lisbon Flag of Portugal.svg  Portugal EuropeMary arose and went with haste. (Lk 1:39) [34]
  • Tenth WYD in Europe
  • Third WYD in Southwestern Europe

Note 01Attendance numbers reflect the total number at the closing Mass which includes many locals who attended only that one event.
Note 02This lists languages used in the main international version of the anthem. Local versions of the anthem in other languages (and alternate versions) may have also been produced.


Diocesan level celebrations (celebrated on Palm Sunday each year)
23 March 1986Always be prepared to make a defence to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you. (1 Pt 3:15)
27 March 1988Do whatever he tells you. (Jn 2:5)
8 April 1990I am the vine, you are the branches. (Jn 15:5)
12 April 1992Go into all the world and preach the Gospel. (Mk 16:15)
27 March 1994As the Father sent me, so am I sending you. (Jn 20: 21)
31 March 1996Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. (Jn 6:68)
5 April 1998The Holy Spirit will teach you all things. (cf. Jn 14:26 )
28 March 1999The Father loves you. (cf. Jn 16:27)
8 April 2001If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. (Lk 9:23)
13 April 2003Behold, your mother! (Jn 19:27)
4 April 2004We wish to see Jesus. (Jn 12:21)
9 April 2006Your word is a lamp to my feet and light to my path. (Ps 119:105)
1 April 2007Just as I have loved you; you also should love one another. (Jn 13:34)
5 April 2009We have set our hope on the Living God. (1 Tim 4:10) [27]
28 March 2010Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life? (Mk 10:17) [27]
1 April 2012Rejoice in the Lord Always (Philip 4:4)
13 April 2014Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Mt 5:3) [31]
29 March 2015Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. (Mt 5:8) [31]
9 April 2017The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name (Lk 1:49)
25 March 2018Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God (Lk 1:30) [35]
5 April 2020Young man, I say to you, arise! (Lk 7:14) [36]
28 March 2021Stand up! I appoint you as witnesses of what you have seen. (Acts 26:16) [37]

Typical schedule of events

International level

World Youth Day – Overview of Week
Up to week beforeTueWedThuFriSatSun
MorningDays in the dioceses:
  • Catechetical sessions around host and nearby dioceses
Day of official arrival and welcome for pilgrimsCatechetical session with participating bishopsWalking pilgrimage to vigil siteClosing ceremonies:
  • Morning prayers are led by participating bishops
  • Mass is celebrated by the Pope
  • Next host diocese is announced by the Pope after Mass
AfternoonOpening ceremonies
  • Holy Mass is celebrated by the local ordinary of the host diocese
Afternoon shows, music, prayer and reconciliation opportunitiesThe Pope officially arrives at WYD and delivers his welcome address at a prayer serviceAfternoon shows, music, prayer and reconciliation opportunitiesAfternoon shows, music, prayer and reconciliation opportunities at vigil site
EveningEvening shows, music, prayer and reconciliation opportunities Stations of the Cross Eucharistic Adoration

Diocesan level

At the diocesan level celebrations are decided by a local team usually appointed by the ordinary.

Since these celebrations usually occur during Palm Sunday, it almost always includes the Mass of Passion Sunday – when Jesus' entry to Jerusalem in his final days is commemorated.

Music, prayer, reconciliation opportunities, as well as adoration of the Blessed Sacrament may also be part of the celebrations.

Related Research Articles

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  33. Francis announces Panama as WYD venue for 2019

Further reading