VATICAN CITY, (ZENIT.org).- From Rome, back to Rome: this, in brief,
is the history of World Youth Day, which began 16 years ago in the
Eternal City, and are being celebrated for the second time in Rome
Conceived by Pope John Paul II, World Youth Day is a special time
for the Pope to meet with youth from around the world. The creation
of World Youth Day was inspired by two important international
events: the Holy Year of the Redemption in 1984 and the
International Year of Youth celebrated by the United Nations in
1985. These occasions gave Pope John Paul II the opportunity to
institute these meetings with young people from around the world and
have been continually observed in alternating years at the diocesan
and international levels.
Following the first World Youth Day in Rome, the second was held in
Buenos Aires, Argentina. The theme of this meeting was "We have
recognized and believed in God's love for us." John Paul II
invited youth to understand the meaning of their own existence in
the light of Christ.
The third World Day was held in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, in
1989. The youth followed in the footsteps of pilgrims throughout
history to Compostela. There, in the place our ancestors considered
the end of the earth, the Pope appealed to young people to be
evangelizers like St. James: "Do not be afraid: this is the
freedom with which Christ has liberated us," he said to them.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, World Youth Day was held in
Czestochowa, Poland, in 1991 where, for the first time, more than
100,000 youths from Eastern European countries were able to
participate, after having suffered persecution under totalitarian
Communist regimes. At the Shrine of the Black Madonna of Jasna Gora,
John Paul II called on all, from East and West, to be builders of
the civilization of love, whose "great program" is
embodied in the Church's social doctrine.
The 1993 World Youth Day took place in the Rocky Mountains in
Denver, Colorado. Its message was a passage from St. John's Gospel:
"I have come to give them life, that they may have it in
abundance." The meeting became a challenge to post-modern
society of great metropolises, skyscrapers, and business. It was in
Denver that the Pope said: "Do not be afraid to go out into the
streets and public places, like the first Apostles, who preached
Christ and the Good News of salvation in city and village squares.
This is not the time to be ashamed of the Gospel. It is the time to
preach it from the rooftops."
From America, World Youth Day moved to Asia. The biggest turnout for
this event was in Manila, the Philippines, where several million
youth participated in the closing Mass.
In 1997, World Youth Day was celebrated in Paris, France, and the
number of youth attending far surpassed all expectations. In Paris,
the Pope concentrated his thoughts on the disciples' question,
"Master, where do you live?" and Christ's response,
"Come and see."
Now, during the celebration of the Great Jubilee, it is Rome's turn
again to host the Holy Year's World Youth Day. In his message
anticipating this event, the Holy Father said: "Do not be
afraid to be the saints of the third millennium."