The World Youth Day - 2023
The World Youth Day (WYD) begins from 1st to 6th of August 2023 in Lisbon, Portugal. The theme for this WYD is the Bible verse “Mary arose and went with haste” (Lk 1:39). The Youth (of all faiths) between the ages 15 to 35 are invited to be part of this massive event. Pope Francis himself closely monitors overall preparations. The Preparation Committee had a general audience with Pope in the first week of January 2023. WYD will be a special event in which Youth will be exposed to the teachings of Jesus Christ and be empowered to live in the way of Christ. The Youth will be able to connect to the universal Church and be part of a global movement of faith. WYD will be a time for the youth to come together, share their faith, and ideas, and create a platform for fellowship and understanding.
This event will include various activities such as catechesis, Mass, talks, workshops, and various cultural activities. It will also provide opportunities to meet with Pope Francis and other senior Church leaders. This will be a platform to promote ecumenical dialogue between the youth of different religions. The Youth will be encouraged to come together in a spirit of understanding and respect, to share their views. WYD will inspire the youth to create a better world and build bridges of understanding, and peace in order to become true instruments of the Gospel.
How it all began:
The concept of WYD was influenced by the summer camps of youth in Poland in 1960s. Over time bishops were guided to schedule “Youth days” in their dioceses on the Palm Sunday of every year (currently on the feast of Christ the king). Late Pope Saint John Paul II in the year 1984 invited the youth from around the world to St. Peters square, Rome for the international Jubilee of the Youth. He was overwhelmed to witness the presence of three lakhs of youth at that event. During this event, Pope John Paul II handed the wooden cross to be carried throughout the world as the symbol of infinite Love for humankind. The following year (1985), Pope invited the youth from around the world to Rome to participate in the “United Nations International year of the youth” and here he officially instituted The World Youth Day on 20th Dec 1985. Since then, a total of 15 WYDs described below were celebrated.
Popes and WYDs: Since the time of its inception WYDs are very close to the hearts of Popes. Their very presence at every WDYs is something to be noted. The youth encounter Pope to imprint the message in their hearts.
Saint John Paul II: He, The founder of WYDs is regarded as the Pope of the youth. From being, a chaplain to the university students at Krákow inviting them to the weekend programs like Mass, conferences, hiking, and sharing their lives, he never missed a chance to spend time with the youth as a priest. He gained confidence in the youth because he took them seriously. He was an extensive traveller who considered travelling as a pilgrimage. He visited 129 countries more than any other Pope in history. He enjoyed being with the people.
Pope Benedict XVI: He presided over three WYDs and they were very special to him. “The World Youth Days are truly part of the most beautiful memories of my entire pontificate. Cologne, Sidney, and Madrid are three milestones I will never forget. I was simply happy to be able to participate, to be accepted, and to be able to help others,” said Pope Emeritus in the book The Latest Conversations with Peter Seewald. The body of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI was being mourned with the same red chasible he wore during the final Mass of The World Youth Day, Sydney 2008. His body was buried with the same red chasible. “The fire of God’s love may descend upon your hearts and fill them, in order to unite you ever more closely to the Lord and his Church and to send you out, as a new generation of apostles, to lead the world to Christ” – Pope Benedict XVI at WYD, Sydney.
Pope Francis: Pope Francis’ great affection for the young is clearly visible in his initiative in conducting a synod on Young People, Faith, and Vocational discernment. Subsequently, the first-ever Vatican document on young people – the apostolic exhortation Christus Vivit,” or “Christ Lives” (CV). Three important themes are 1. Jesus was a young person. 2. We are called to return to the source of youth. 3 Be a saint. Pope Francis says in the opening paragraph that it is meant to remind you of certain convictions born of our faith, and at the same time to encourage you to grow in holiness and in commitment to your personal vocation” (CV 3).
Logo: The logo for this WYD is designed by a young female Portuguese designer of 24 years old namely Beatriz Roque Antunes. Her Logo won the contest among many other logos around the world. The colours (green, red, and yellow) evoke the Portuguese flag. The elements in the logo are: 1. Cross 2. Path 3. Rosary and 4. Mary.
Symbols of WYD: The pilgrim cross: a 3.8 meter wooden cross was handed to the youth by Saint John Paul II in the year 1984 to be carried around the world. It has already travelled to almost 90 countries and 5 continents. It has been a symbol of hope and a sign of faith. Since 2003 The icon of Our Lady Salus Populi Romani also accompanies the cross. The 1.20-meter tall and 80-centimeter wide Icon was added by Saint John Paul II to signify the presence of Mother Mary among the youth. Prior to an apostolic journey, Pope Francis prays before this original icon which is housed in the Basilica of Santa Maria Major in Rome.
The official theme song: The theme song is about the ‘yes’ of Mary and about her rush to meet her cousin Elizabeth. It is entitled “Há Pressa no Ar”. Written by a priest and musician of Portugal. It was released in Portuguese, Spanish, English, Italian, and French.
Pope John Paul II, left a legacy for the youth in his institution of The World Youth Day. Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis faithfully continued to carry on this legacy, demonstrating the hope of the pontiff for the youth of the world by inviting them and commissioning them to be faithful living witnesses as Christ’s disciples. Pope Francis reinforced that “the secret to staying young” is precisely in these two verbs - get up and leave. Addressing young people, he asked that “do not stop thinking about yourselves, wasting your lives in search of comfort or the latest fashion, but “hit the road, get out of your fears to extend a hand to those who are in need.”
“Today we need young people who are truly transgressors. Nonconformists. May they not be slaves to cell phones, but change the world like Mary, bringing Jesus to others, taking care of others, building fraternal communities with others, realizing dreams of peace, said the Pope.
God created us to be fully alive.
Christus vivit is a post-synodal apostolic exhortation of Pope Francis