World Youth Day is currently underway in Lisbon, Portugal.

Below you will find a brief history behind this incredible event.

What is World Youth Day?

According to the official World Youth Day website,

“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.”

World Youth Day is celebrated every three years in a new location and pilgrims from around the world join for the festivities. Each event has a corresponding theme and various opportunities for worship, fellowship, and confession.

You can find the Holy Father’s schedule for World Youth Day 2023 here and a schedule for pilgrims on the World Youth Day 2023 website here.

When did World Youth Day begin?

In 1984, Pope John Paul II extended an invitation to young people across the world to join him for an International Jubilee of Youth on Palm Sunday. Thousands attended and were given the World Youth Day Cross. The first official World Youth Day gathering was held in Rome just two years later.

The last World Youth Day held by Pope John Paul II was in Toronto, Canada.

While there, he said:

“When, back in 1985, I wanted to start the World Youth Days… I imagined a powerful moment in which the young people of the world could meet Christ, who is eternally young, and could learn from him how to be bearers of the Gospel to other young people. This evening, together with you, I praise God and give thanks to him for the gift bestowed on the Church through the World Youth Days. Millions of young people have taken part, and as a result, have become better and more committed Christian witnesses.”

St. John Paul II left his legacy for the youth through World Youth Day, and both Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis continued this tradition.

Where has World Youth Day taken place?

Here is a chronological list of World Youth Day locations:

1986 - Rome, Italy

1987 - Buenos Aires, Argentina

1989 - Santiago de Compostela, Spain

1991 - Czestochowa, Poland

1993 - Denver, USA

1995 - Manila, Philippines

1997 - Paris, France

2000 - Rome, Italy

2002 - Toronto, Canada

2005 - Cologne, Germany

2008 - Sydney, Australia

2011 - Madrid, Spain

2013 - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

2016 - Krakow, Poland

2019 - Panama City, Panama

2023 - Lisbon, Portugal

Here is the official prayer for World Youth Day 2023 in Lisbon:

Our Lady of the Visitation,
you who arose and went with haste into the hill country to meet Elizabeth,
lead us also to encounter all those who await us
to deliver them the living Gospel: Jesus Christ, your Son, and our Lord!

We, too, will go in haste, without distraction or delay,
but with readiness and joy.
We will go with peace because those who bring Christ bring peace, and well-being comes from being generous and loving in our deeds.

Our Lady of the Visitation,
through your inspiration, this World Youth Day
will be a shared celebration of Christ, whom we bring to others, just as you did.

Please make this a time of testimony and sharing, of fraternity and thanksgiving,
with each of us looking for opportunities to give to those who are waiting to receive.
With you, we will continue on this path of encounter so that our world will join us, too, in fraternity, justice, and peace.

Help us, Our Lady of the Visitation,
to bring Christ to everyone,
in obedience to the Father
and in the love of the Holy Spirit!


Prayer Source

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