The Vatican

"One of the most beautiful inspirations of the Church are the WYD".

World Youth Days celebrated its 40th anniversary this April. Four decades of encounters of prayer, faith and joy from which numerous vocations have emerged.

Hernan Sergio Mora-April 17, 2024-Reading time: 3 minutes

This April marks the 40th anniversary of Pope John Paul II's first invitation to young people, when he gave them the World Youth Day (WYD) Cross in St. Peter's Square during the Holy Year of the Redemption, thus planting the first seed of this great event.

Various activities in Rome commemorated this anniversary, including a vigil, two Masses and a procession with the WYD cross in St. Peter's Square.

"One of the most beautiful inspirations of the contemporary Church are the World Youth Days," Cardinal José Tolentino de Mendonça, Prefect of the Dicastery for Culture and Education, told Omnes in an interview before the start of the Mass on April 13, 2024.

Cardinal Mendonça during the Mass on April 13

"Pope St. John Paul II interpreted the times very well and saw the need that, in our historical moment, thinking about the present and the future of the Church, there should be a special attention to young people, creating within the ecclesial experience, a priority space for the protagonism of young people," he added. "Today, 40 years later, after Pope Benedict XVI and now with Pope Francis - continued the Cardinal - we perceive that the days are a very great contribution to the faith experience of young people.

Also so that they may become - as St. John Paul II said - the first evangelizers of other young people".

Asked about the vocational fruits of WYD, Cardinal Tolentino considered that "the Days are one of the most beautiful aspects, because the increase in male and female vocations - and also to marriage - has been one of the most powerful effects in the cities and countries where WYD has been celebrated".

I think," said the Cardinal, "that each World Youth Day leaves an unforgettable mark in the hearts of young people, which is manifested in the triple joy of being Church, of believing in Jesus Christ and of proclaiming him".

Reminding the Cardinal that when St. John Paul II convoked the WYD some prophets of misfortune indicated that it would be a danger to put so many young people together, the Cardinal responded:

"The extraordinary thing is to see that the young people have given and continue to give a very great testimony to the world, of what it is to respect one another, of what it is to pray together in the middle of the street, what it is to give witness to Christ in a serene and enthusiastic way."

The St. Lawrence International Youth Center (CSL) hosted the celebration on Saturday, April 13. The event was sponsored by the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life and the "Giovanni Paolo II per la Gioventù" Foundation, with the participation of various youth movements, such as the Shalom Catholic Community, which provided musical entertainment, Franciscans, Legionaries of Christ, Polish seminarians and others present.

On Sunday, Cardinal Lazarus You Heung-sik, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Clergy presided the Mass at the St. Lawrence International Youth Center. The presence of the two cardinals, one Portuguese and the other Korean, symbolized the bridge between the last WYD in Lisbon and the next one in 2027 in Seoul.

The first WYD

On April 14, 1984, 300,000 young people from all over the world arrived in Rome, hosted by some six thousand Roman families, constituting the first large gathering of young people. After the Cross was handed over to them in St. Peter's Square, the cross became the symbol of WYD, joined by the icon of Salus Populi Romani, the patron saint of Rome, also given by St. John Paul II.

The authorHernan Sergio Mora

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