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What is World Youth Day?

World Youth Day (WYD) is an encounter of young people from around the world with the Pope, typically celebrated every three years. The event allows young people to experience the universality of the Church and to share their faith in Jesus Christ.

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.


There have been 12 International World Youth Day celebrations, where the youth continue to answer the invitation of the Holy Father to 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.

Attendance at this event has been truly staggering, the following table of recent years gives the Year, Location and Attendance (approximate)

2000 Rome 2,000,000
2002 Toronto 800,000
2005 Cologne 1,200,000
2008 Sydney 400,000
2011 Madrid 1,800,000
2013 Rio de Janiero 3,700,000
2016 Kracow 3,500,000


The next World Youth Day will be in  Panama  22 - 27 January 2019. This massive youth rally, which always has the Pope as its VIP guest, will take place in Panama City during its local summer.

The theme for World Youth Day, 2019 is, “I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” (Lk 1:38). 

Explaining the date, which may make it difficult for North Americans and Europeans to participate because of school schedules, Archbishop José Domingo Ulloa of Panama City said that the weather - in particular, avoiding the country’s heavy rainy season - prevailed in the choice.