History of World Youth
Days in the Diocese
Pilgrimage of Faith
World Youth Day
In 1984, Pope John Paul II announced 1985 as a Jubilee year
for the Catholic Church. In an effort to recognize the growing youth
of the Church, he invited them from around the world to travel to Rome
for Palm Sunday. He declared that day to be the first World Youth Day,
and that the youth should go back to their home towns and communities
and celebrate their new-found fellowship and continue the tradition
for each year to follow.
From that year forward, there have been
World Youth Days each year on both an international and diocesan level.
Past WYDs have existed throughout the world.
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Days in the
Although the name implies a single day of events, World Youth Day actually
can extend over one or two weeks. Typically a WYD on an international
level is over a two-week period and is divided into two sections. The
first week exposes those who attend to functions with the host diocese
of the city. Youth travel around the diocese to different parishes to
learn and understand the activities and culture of the youth of the
host country. This week, known as “Days in the Diocese,”
is a voluntary process for youth.The second week consists of the actually
events for the WYD. Youth, both individually and in groups, travel to
the host country on the Sunday and Monday of the second week.
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Pilgrims have two options when traveling to a WYD. Many youth will make
their lodgings in hotels throughout the city, but this can hinder those
with financial disabilities. To offset this monetary boundary, many
churches, during the entire two-week time period, allow registered pilgrims
to stay within their facilities. Gymnasiums, meeting halls, and even
the church itself are converted to rows of cots allowing youth an even
The image to the right is of a converted meeting hall in Rome, 2002.
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Although pilgrims can eat
wherever they choose, for a small fee, youth can enjoy meals on a grand
scale. Large food stations are set up throughout venues in the city
to provide meals to the pilgrims. Youth gather in smaller groups of
six and pick-up prepackaged meals for their group. A sense of "breaking
bread" is felt as members of the same traveling group, or combinations
of many groups come together to exchange names, information, and prayer.
The image to the right is of a large cooking vat with volunteers
preparing lunch for awaiting pilgrims.
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On Tuesday an Opening Ceremony with the host diocese’s bishop/cardinal
is held to kick-off festivities throughout the city. Most youth who
attend a WYD are attending for their first time, and during the Opening
Ceremony, as many as one million or more youth are gathered together.
It is here that the for the first time, the official World Youth Day
hymn is sung and the presiding clergy offer Mass to the large group.
After the Opening Ceremony, all the youth
are encouraged to visit sites throughout the city to experience many
different aspects of WYD. Concerts from international Christian groups
are performed throughout the city. Prayer vigils, cultural exchange
sites, and information are presented in churches, pagodas and venues
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From Wednesday to Friday, youth attend Catechesis sessions for several
hours in the morning. The youth are divided by their dominant language
for these sessions. Guest lecturers are introduced and give speeches
on the theme of the WYD. After
Catechesis, youth attend Mass and then break for lunch.
The image to the right is Bishop Wilton Gregory, President of
the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Bishop Gregory spoke on
how to be "Salty" at the 2002 WYD in Toronto, Canada.
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On Thursday, a Welcome Ceremony is held for the pope. The pontiff arrives
to the main venue, usually by air, and then travels throughout the crowd
in the “Pope Mobile.” The event can last up to two hours
and includes singing, prayer, and the most monumental part, the greeting
of all the nations present by the name of the country and in their own
language. At the last WYD, 172 nations attended representing all six
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On Friday, most youth will
travel throughout the city to perform a Community Service project.
These projects, established by the coordinators of WYD allow pilgrims
to intermingle with other youth in an effort to make-better the community
they are visiting. When finished, most will return to their dwellings
and prepare for the five-mile hike awaiting them on Saturday.
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Saturday starts very early with youth traveling from everywhere to a
central location. In Rome, 2000, youth traveled first by subway 20 miles
outside of the city to a starting location. There, they traveled by
foot five to seven miles to their camping location at Tor Vergata, the
college of Rome, Italy. In Toronto, 2002, youth traveled to Downsview,
an abandoned airport turned makeshift overnight campground.
arriving, many rest for several hours until the pope arrives. As evening
are lit and Vespers is said. In past WYDs, fireworks have followed,
Baptisms have been held and concerts have been performed. All in the
presence of Pope John Paul II and more than one million youth
The image to the right is of Melissa Quintana, a pilgrim of Toronto,
Canada in 2002 holding a candle during the night vigil.
As dawn bears the new day,
the youth arise for morning Mass. For many youth, this will be their
first Mass with the pontiff. A High Mass, celebrated in the official
languages of the host country lasts for approximately three hours. When
the Mass has concluded, the location and date of the next WYD is announced.
Delegates from the country are presented with the WYD Cross and the
two-week celebration ends. The youth hike back and return home to their
native countries, changed for life as to the magnificent events they
For more information on WYD
events, future WYDs, and groups traveling to Cologne, Germany, contact
the diocese office closest to you.
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Pictures provided by XV Giornata Mondiale Della
Gioventu: I Care
Additional material for this page
was provided by
Ross Schmadebeck and his experiences.