All photos courtesy of Catholic Weekly

Initiated by the awesome Pope John Paul II in 1986 as a way to reach out to Catholic youth around the globe, WYD has changed the lives of millions since its first celebration on Palm Sunday in Rome, Italy. WYD is celebrated each year at a diocesan level and every two to three years it becomes an international week-long celebration attended by young people from nearly every country on the planet. International WYDs have been celebrated across the world from Buenos Aires to Denver, to Paris, Toronto and Sydney. This year, Spain will become the first country - outside of Italy - to host a second WYD, having hosted its first in 1989.


The week-long event is filled with prayer services, Masses, catechetical sessions and concerts. The sound of patriotic chants lingers in the streets, while flags from hundreds of different countries are waved overhead. WYD pilgrims, despite language and cultural differences, are brought together by the common thread of their faith, and, as a result, lifelong international friendships often are formed.



In addition to the pilgrims trading objects such as hats, flags, pins and T-shirts, the highlights of any WYD are the appearances by the Holy Father, who welcomes the pilgrims and presides over a prayer service. The pope also celebrates the closing Mass, which is typically held at a large, open space such as a park or airfield. The evening prior to the Mass, pilgrims sleep under the stars with their fellow WYD participants, forming dance circles, playing games and meeting new friends.


WYD is a true pilgrimage—an amazing experience with the potential to change one’s life forever.