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Chronicle of World Youth Days - Dates and Scriptural Themes 1984-2013

July 15, 2013
Brazilians cropped
In 1984 the International Jubilee for the Young was celebrated by John Paul II in St. Peter's Square in a celebration that also marked the close of the Holy Year of Redemption. At this gathering Pope John Paul II entrusted to young people what is now known as the World Youth Day (WYD) Cross - one of the most important symbols of WYD.
In 1985, the United Nations declared the first "International Youth Year" and to celebrate it the Holy Father welcomed youth from all over the world in Rome on Palm Sunday. In December of the same year he announced the institution of World Youth Day. It is celebrated annually at the diocesan level on Palm Sunday in Rome and at a week-long event internationally every two to three years.
During Pope John Paul II's last World Youth Day in Toronto (Canada), an aging and infirm Pontiff told over 600,000 people gathered with him at the vigil in Downsview Park, "When, back in 1985, I wanted to start the World Youth Days? I imagined a powerful moment in which the young people of the world could meet Christ, who is eternally young, and could learn from him how to be bearers of the Gospel to other young people. This evening, together with you, I praise God and give thanks to him for the gift bestowed on the Church through the World Youth Days. Millions of young people have taken part, and as a result have become better and more committed Christian witnesses."
The following morning, over 800,000 people joined the Holy Father for the concluding mass of World Youth Day 2002.  Pope John Paul II left a legacy for the youth in his institution of World Youth Day, which Pope Benedict XVI faithfully continued, carrying on the hope of His predecessor for the youth of the world, inviting them and commissioning them as Christ's disciples to be faithful living witnesses.  Pope Francis continues that tradition with his participation in the Rio event next week.
Below is a chronicle of the World Youth Days, including the dates and Scriptural Themes of each event.  The International Celebrations take place every few years in various cities throughout the world but each year, World Youth Day is celebrated in the dioceses of the world on Palm Sunday. Tomorrow I will present the story of the World Youth Day Cross.
1984  Rome. St Peter's Square, Palm Sunday (April 15, 1984) International youth meeting on the occasion of the Holy Year of the Redemption.  Pope John Paul II presents and entrusts young people with the Cross (April 22,1984)
1985  Rome. St Peter's Square - Palm Sunday (March 31, 1985) International youth meeting on the occasion of International Youth Year.  Pope John Paul II addresses an Apostolic Letter to the youth of the world "Dilecti Amici" (March 31, 1985) and announces the institution of World Youth Day (December 20, 1985)
1986  First World Youth Day
Theme: "Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you" (I Peter 3:15) Celebration (diocesan level): Palm Sunday (March 23, 1986)
1987  Second World Youth Day
Theme: "We ourselves have known and put our faith in God's love towards ourselves" (I John 4:16) Celebration (international level): Buenos Aires, Argentina (April 11-12, 1987)
1988  Third World Youth Day
Theme: "Do whatever he tells you" (John 2:5) Celebration (diocesan level): Palm Sunday (March 27, 1988)
1989  Fourth World Youth Day
Theme: "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life" (John 14:6) Celebration (international level): Santiago de Compostela, Spain (August 15-20, 1989)
1990  Fifth World Youth Day
Theme: "I am the vine, you are the branches" (John 15:5) Celebration (diocesan level): Palm Sunday (April 8,1990)
1991  Sixth World Youth Day
Theme: "You have received a spirit of sonship" (Romans 8:15) Celebration (international level): Czestochowa, Poland (August 10-15,1991)
1992  Seventh World Youth Day
Theme: "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel" (Mark 16:15) Celebration (diocesan level): Palm Sunday (April 12,1992)
1993  Eighth World Youth Day
Theme: "I came that they might have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10) Celebration (international level): Denver, USA (August 10-15, 1993)
Theme: "As the Father sent me, so am I sending you" (John 20: 21) Ninth World Youth Day Celebration (diocesan level): Palm Sunday (March 27, 1994)
Tenth World Youth Day Celebration (international level): Manila, Philippines (January 10-15,1995)
1996  Eleventh World Youth Day
Theme: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (John 6:68).  Celebration (diocesan level): Palm Sunday (March 31, 1996)
1997  Twelfth World Youth Day
Theme: "Teacher, where are you staying? Come and see" (John 1:38-39) Celebration (international level): Paris, France (August 19-24,1997)
1998  Thirteenth World Youth Day
Theme: "The Holy Spirit will teach you all things" (John 14:26 ) Celebration (diocesan level): Palm Sunday (April 5,1998)
1999  Fourteenth World Youth Day
Theme: "The Father loves you" (John 16:27) Celebration (diocesan level): Palm Sunday (March 28,1999)
2000  Fifteenth World Youth Day - Youth Jubilee
Theme: "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14) Celebration (international level): Rome, Italy (August 15-20, 2000)
2001  Sixteenth World Youth Day
Theme: "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23) Celebration (diocesan level): Palm Sunday (April 8, 2001)
2002  Seventeenth World Youth Day
Theme: "You are the salt of the earth ... you are the light of the world" (Matthew 5:13,14) Celebration (international level): Toronto, Canada (July 23-28, 2002)
2003  Eighteenth World Youth Day
Theme: "Behold, your mother!" (John 19:27)  Celebration (diocesan level): Palm Sunday (April 13, 2003)
2004  Nineteenth World Youth Day
Theme: "We wish to see Jesus" (John 12:21)  Celebration (diocesan level): Palm Sunday (April 4, 2004)
2005  Twentieth World Youth Day
Theme: "We have come to worship Him" (Mt 2,2) International celebration: Cologne, Germany (August 16-21, 2005)
2006  Twenty-first World Youth Day
Theme: "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path" (Psalm 119:105) Celebration (diocesan level): Palm Sunday (April 9, 2006)
2007  Twenty-second World Youth Day
Theme: "Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another" (John 13, 34) Celebration (diocesan level): Palm Sunday (April 8, 2007)
2008  Twenty-third World Youth Day
Theme: "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses" (Acts 1, 8) International celebration - Sydney, Australia (July 15-20, 2008)
2009  Twenty-fourth World Youth Day
Theme: "We have set our hope on the living God" ?(I Timothy 4:10) Celebration (diocesan level): Palm Sunday (April 5, 2009)
2010  Twenty-fifth World Youth Day
Theme: "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" ?(Mark 10:17)  Celebration (diocesan level): Palm Sunday (March 28, 2010)
2011  Twenty-sixth World Youth Day
Theme: "Planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith" (Colossians 2:7) International celebration - Madrid, Spain  (August 16-21, 2011)
2012 Twenty-seventh World Youth Day
Theme: "Rejoice in the Lord always" (Philippians 4:4) Celebration (diocesan level): Palm Sunday (April 1, 2012)
2013 Twenty-eighth World Youth Day
Theme: "Go and make disciples of all nations!" (Matthew 28:19) International celebration ? Rio de Janeiro, Brazil  (July 23-28, 2013)
For more information, please visit:
World Youth Day 2013 website: http://rio2013.com/en/
Vatican Website: WYDs on Vatican Website; Rio WYD on Vatican Website
WYD Central - Salt and Light Catholic Television Network: http://wydcentral.org/
Excellent article on World Youth Days: "Popes put personal stamp on World Youth Day celebrations" by Catholic News Service (CNS) of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops