World Youth Day (WYD) is the gathering of young people from all over the world with the Pope. It is also a pilgrimage, a celebration of youth, an expression of the universal Church and an intense moment of evangelization for the youth world. Although its Catholic identity is clearly evident, WYD opens its doors to everyone, no matter how close to or distant from the Church they are.
It is celebrated at the diocesan level on Palm Sunday, and every two, three or four years as an international gathering in a city chosen by the Pope, with the presence of the Holy Father. It brings together millions of young people to celebrate their faith and sense of belonging to the Church.
Since its first edition in Rome in 1986, World Youth Day has proven to be a laboratory of faith, a place of birth for vocations to marriage and consecrated life, and an instrument for the evangelization and transformation of the Church.
It aims to provide all participants with a universal Church experience, fostering a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. It is a new stimulus to the faith, hope and charity of the entire host country community. With young people as its protagonists, World Youth Day also seeks to promote peace, unity and fraternity among peoples and nations around the world.
According to many, it is the most beautiful invention of Pope John Paul II. In 1984, the Pope decided to organize a gathering on Palm Sunday, in Rome, to celebrate the Youth Jubilee of the Holy Year of Redemption 1983-1984. Sixty thousand pilgrims were expected, however 250 thousand young people from different countries around the world attended the event.
The experience was so meaningful for the entire Church that the Holy Father decided to repeat the celebration the following year. In this gathering, 300 thousand young pilgrims were distributed among the churches of the city for moments of prayer and catechesis, followed by a full gathering in Saint Peter’s Square to participate in the celebration with the Pope. This same year, 1985, John Paul II wrote an Apostolic Exhortation to the young people of the whole world, and on 20 December, he announced the institution of World Youth Day.
Addressing the College of Cardinals and the Roman Curia, the Pope explained the creation of WYD as follows: «All young people must feel accompanied by the Church: that is why the whole Church, in union with the Successor of Peter, feels more committed, at a worldwide level, to the youth of today, their concerns and requests, their openness and hopes, to respond to their aspirations, passing on the certainty that is Christ, the Truth that is Christ, the love that is Christ, through an appropriate development process.
Over the course of a week, young people from all over the world are welcomed, mainly in public (gymnasiums, schools, pavilions …) and parish facilities or family homes. In addition to the moments of prayer, sharing and leisure, the young people enrolled in this celebration participate in various initiatives organized by the WYD team, in different locations across the host city. The highlights are the celebrations (central features) for which the Pope is present, such as the welcoming and opening ceremony, the Way of the Cross, the vigil and, on the last day, the closing mass.
“Pre-WYD” or “days in the dioceses” is a gathering that precedes the week of WYD and involves integrating the young people from all over the world in the parish communities, in the various dioceses of the country and, in some cases, in the dioceses of neighbouring countries. During these days, the participants can get to know the host region better, as well as the local Church and its features, and as is also the case in WYD week, they stay in public or parish facilities or family homes. The pre-WYD for WYD Lisbon 2023 will take place from north to south of Portugal, including the islands.
Established by John Paul II in 1985, his successors also welcomed the idea with enthusiasm and marked each WYD edition with their presence. A few months after his election as Pope, Benedict XVI participated in the gathering in Cologne, Germany in 2005, interestingly his country of origin. At a later stage, he attended the event in Sydney, Australia, in 2008 and also in Madrid, Spain, in 2011. In 2013, Pope Francis’ first apostolic trip outside Italy took him to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to attend WYD. He was also at the Krakow edition in Poland, and more recently presided over WYD 2019 in Panama City, Panama.
World Youth Day is accompanied and represented by two symbols: the pilgrim cross and the icon of Our Lady Salus Populi Romani. In the months leading up to each WYD, the symbols set out on a pilgrimage to proclaim the Gospel and to accompany young people and their realities in a particularly special manner.
The way these symbols have been received and welcomed has borne considerable fruit all over the world. In Africa, they instigated young people to become a non-violent generation, were displayed at the forefront of several peace marches, and were touched and greeted by thousands of worshippers wearing the typical attire of their countries. They have also helped to bring about reconciliation in places of tension, such as East Timor.
The pilgrim cross
The 3.8 metre high pilgrim cross, built for the Holy Year in 1983, was entrusted to the young people on Palm Sunday of the following year by John Paul II, to be carried around the world. Since then, the pilgrimage of the wooden pilgrim cross has already taken it to five continents and almost 90 countries. It has been seen as a true sign of faith.
It has been carried on foot, by boat and even by unusual means such as sledges, cranes and tractors. It has been through the jungle, visited churches, juvenile detention centres, prisons, schools, universities, hospitals, monuments and shopping centres. It has also encountered many obstacles on its journey: from air strikes to transport difficulties, such as being unable to travel since it would not fit into any of the available planes.
It has asserted itself as a sign of hope in particularly sensitive locations. In 1985, it was in Prague, the current Czech Republic, at the time when Europe was divided by the iron curtain, and represented communion with the Pope. Shortly after 9/11, it travelled to Ground Zero in New York, where the terrorist attacks that killed almost 3,000 people had taken place. It also went to Rwanda in 2006, after the country had been plagued by civil war.
The icon of Our Lady Salus Populi Romani
Since 2000, the pilgrim cross has been accompanied by the icon of Our Lady Salus Populi Romani, who portrays the Virgin Mary with the Child in her arms. This icon was also introduced by Pope John Paul II as a symbol of Mary’s presence among young people. Standing 1.20 metres high and 80 centimetres wide, the icon of Our Lady Salus Populi Romani is associated with one of the most popular Marian devotions in Italy. Continuing an old tradition, it is carried in a procession through the streets of Rome, to ward off dangers and misfortunes or to put an end to plagues. The original icon is housed in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maior, in Rome, and is visited by Pope Francis who goes there to pray and to leave a bouquet of flowers prior to and upon return from each apostolic journey.
«Mary arose and went with haste» (Lk 1:39) is the bible quote chosen by Pope Francis as the motto of the XXVIII World Youth Day that will be held for the first time in the capital city of Lisbon, Portugal. The biblical phrase (a quote from the Gospel of St. Luke) opens the account of the Visitation (Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth), a biblical episode following the Annunciation (the angel’s announcement to Mary that she would be the mother of the Son of God, and the theme of the last WYD, in Panama).
During their conversation of the Annunciation, the angel also tells Mary that her older cousin, thought to be sterile, is pregnant. After affirming to the angel ” Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word ” (Lk 1:38), it is then that Mary sets out for Ain Karim, a village near Jerusalem where Elizabeth lived and was awaiting the birth of John, who would become Saint John the Baptist.
Mary of Nazareth is the great figure of the Christian journey. She teaches us to say yes to God. She was the protagonist of the last edition of WYD and will be so once again in Lisbon.
In the biblical episode of the Visitation, the action of standing up presents Mary as both a woman of charity and a missionary woman. Leaving in haste represents the attitude depicted in Pope Francis’ indications for WYD Lisbon 2023: «may young people’s evangelization be active and missionary, for this is how they will recognize and witness the presence of the living Christ».
Addressing young people in particular, and challenging them to be courageous missionaries, the following was written by the Pope in the Apostolic Exhortation Christus Vivit: « Where does Jesus send us? There are no borders, no limits: he sends us everywhere. The Gospel is for everyone, not just for some » (CV 177).
The logo of the WYD Lisbon 2023, inspired on the theme “Mary arose and went with haste” (Lc1, 39), has got the Cross as a main element. This is crossed by a path where the Holy Spirit arises.
It is an invitation for the young people so that they do not stand still and asking them to be the main characters in building a fairer and more fraternal world, explains the author, the young portuguese designer Beatriz Roque Antunes.
The colours (green, red, and yellow) evoke the Portuguese flag.
The Christian Cross, sign of the infinite love of God for the Humankind, is the main element, where everything is born from.
The passage of the Visitation is the theme of the WYD Lisbon 2023, and it reveals us that Mary was ready to live according to God’s will, being available to serve Elizabeth. This movement underlines the invitation made to the young people to renew their “inner strength, their dreams, the enthusiasm, the hope and the gratitude” (Christus Vivit, 20). Next to the path there is also a shape that evokes the Holy Spirit.
The choice of the rosary celebrates the spirituality of the Portuguese people in their devotion to Our Lady of Fátima. This is placed on the path to recall the pilgrimage experience which is so remarkable in Portugal.
Mary is depicted as a young girl to represent the figure of the Gospel of Saint Luke (Lc 1, 39) and to enable a resemblance with the youngest. The drawing expresses the juvenility of her age, a characteristic of someone who was not a mother yet, but who is carrying the light of the world inside Her. This figure has a slight inclination, to show the compelled attitude of the Virgin Mary.
The World Youth Day Lisbon 2023 theme song, entitled “Há Pressa no Ar”, was released this Wednesday, 27th January. The song, inspired on the WYD Lisbon 2023 theme [«Mary rose up and went with haste (Lc1,39)»], is about the ‘yes’ of Mary and about her rush to meet her cousin Elizabeth, just like the Bible verse says.
“Há Pressa no Ar” has lyrics by João Paulo Vaz, a priest, and music by Pedro Ferreira, teacher, and musician, both from the Diocese of Coimbra, in the centre region of Portugal. The arrangements were made by the musician Carlos Garcia.
The theme song was recorded in two versions: in Portuguese and in an international version that gathers five languages (Portuguese, English, Spanish, French and Italian).
When singing this theme song, the young people from all over the world are invited to identify themselves with Mary, disposing themselves to serve, to the mission and to the transformation of the world. The lyrics also evokes the party of the WYD and the joy that comes from Jesus.
The location for WYD is chosen on an alternate basis and the continent changes in each edition. It is the Pope who chooses the diocese that will host each WYD, while the diocese is responsible for organizing the event in close collaboration with the Holy See, more specifically with the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life. It is also the Holy Father who chooses the theme for each WYD and illustrates it through a message written for such purpose, thus guiding the path of preparation and the experience of the event itself.
The edition of 2023 is organized by the Patriarchate of Lisbon. With this purpose, the Cardinal-Patriarch of Lisbon, D. Manuel Clemente, formed the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) for the WYD Lisbon 2023, an executive organ to prepare the organization of the WYD Lisbon 2023 which is formed by the auxiliary Bishops of Lisbon D. Américo Aguiar e D. Joaquim Mendes and by the executive secretary Duarte Ricciardi.
The juridical entity of the organization of the WYD Lisbon 2023 is the “Fundação JMJ Lisboa 2023”, governed by D. Américo Aguiar.
The population of Portugal is mainly Catholic, and according to the most recent data, around 80% of citizens identify themselves as such. According to a study by the Benedict XVI Centre for Religion and Society, which served as the information base for the Synod of Bishops on young people in the Catholic Church of 2018, around 53% of Portuguese young people claim to be Catholics, representing a higher figure than the European average.
In Portugal, there are 21 dioceses and 4380 parishes. Among the many popular Portuguese devotions, the devotion to Our Lady of Fatima, celebrated on the dates marking the apparitions of the Virgin Mary to the three shepherd children (Francisco, Jacinta and Lucia), is the most expressive.
Lisbon is an amazing city that unveils itself gradually, in every neighbourhood, on every street. It is both friendly and safe, while also ancient and modern.
The historical and cultural offer is endless. Beginning with the Cathedral, then moving on to the historic Alfama neighbourhood and to the Castle, fabulous views over the city and the Tagus River can be enjoyed. Strolling through the downtown area of Baixa, walking along the riverside towards Alges, we are able to see Belem Tower and the Monastery of Jeronimos, both World Heritage Sites.
The people, heritage and culture make Lisbon an unforgettable city!
Discover more at: www.visitlisboa.com
The mild climate, 3000 hours of sunshine a year and 850 km of beaches bathed by the Atlantic Ocean make Portugal a perfect destination for all seasons, just a few hours’ drive from any European capital.
With the oldest borders in Europe, Portugal boasts a great diversity of landscapes within a short distance from each other, many leisure activities and a unique cultural heritage, where tradition and modernity come together in harmony.
The cuisine, the good wines and the friendliness of the Portuguese are unshakable landmarks of Portuguese cultural identity.
Discover more at: www.visitportugal.com
Our Lady of the Visitation,
you who arose and went with haste towards the mountain to meet Elizabeth,
lead us also to meet all those who await us
to deliver them the living Gospel:
Jesus Christ, your Son and our Lord!
We will go in a hurry, with no distraction or delay,
but with readiness and joy.
We will go peacefully, because those who take Christ take peace,
and welldoing is the best wellbeing.
Our Lady of the Visitation,
with your inspiration, this World Youth Day
will be the mutual celebration of the Christ we take, as You once did.
Make it a time of testimony and sharing,
fraternization, and giving thanks,
each of us looking for the others who always wait.
With you, we will continue on this path of gathering,
so that our world will gather as well,
in fraternity, justice and peace.
Our Lady of the Visitation,
to bring Christ to everyone, obeying the Father, in the love of the Spirit!
Here you will find a prayer proposal especially dedicated to WYD, with meditations for each day of the week. “Just like Mary left from Nazareth to Judaea, to Elizabeth’s house, we also leave, following the calling of Pope Francis to the summer of 2023. With Mary we also carry Jesus, who wants to reach many through us. This convinces us that only with Jesus and Mary we will reach the goal of WYD. That is why praying the Rosary is so important, especially now.” – Manuel Clemente, Patriarch of Lisbon.
Click here to download the WYD Lisbon 2023 Rosary Meditations
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