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~ History ~

History of World Youth Day
Days in the Diocese
Lodging
Dining
Opening Mass
Catechesis
Welcome Ceremony
Community Service
Pilgrimage of Faith

History of 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 Diocese
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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Lodging
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 different experience.
The image to the right is of a converted meeting hall in Rome, 2002.
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Dining
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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Opening Mass
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 everywhere.
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Catechesis
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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Welcome Ceremony
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 populated continents.
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Community Service
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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Pilgrimage of Faith
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.

After arriving, many rest for several hours until the pope arrives. As evening falls, candles 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 partook.

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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Source: http://www.wyd2002.org
Pictures provided by XV Giornata Mondiale Della Gioventu: I Care
Additional material for this page was provided by
Ross Schmadebeck and his experiences.

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© Copyright Spring 2003 by Ross Schmadebeck