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History of the World Youth Day

09/08/2011: Spain

The beginnings of WYD can be found in Rome during the Jubilee of 1983-1984, called the Holy Year of the Redemption. Among the celebrations devoted to youth, the most important took place on the vigil of Palm Sunday, 15 April. More than 300,000 young people coming from all round the world (and hosted by about 6,000 Roman families) took part in the International Youth Jubilee. On 22 April 1984, Pope John Paul II presented the youth with a cross of wood symbolizing "the love of the Lord Jesus for humanity” and as a proclamation that “only in Christ, dead and risen, is salvation and redemption".

The UNO proclaimed 1985 International Year of Youth. The Catholic Church organized a new international meeting on Palm Sunday, 31 March, with another 350,000 young people who met in Saint Peter’s Square. Following the success of this gathering, in December the same year, the Pope instituted the World Youth Day.

On 23 March 1986, Palm Sunday, the first World Youth Day was held in Rome, with the slogan “Always ready to answer those who ask you for the reason for your hope”, taken from the first Letter of Saint Peter (3:15). This was the first of a series of engagements with young people which earned John Paul II the title "The Pope of Youth". The young were invited at it to the following WYD in Buenos Aires, the first truly international World Youth Day.

Since 1986, the WYD has been held annually in each diocese of the world on Palm Sunday, with the principal ceremony in the Vatican. It alternates every three years with a great international gathering in a major metropolis. These international meetings lasting a few days are customarily called the World Youth Day.

World Youth Day 2011 - Madrid - 16-21 August

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