I was looking for you!

Data publikacji: czwartek, 14 wrzesień 2023
We will talk about the phenomenon of World Youth Days, why John Paul II attracted so many young people to the Church, what values he spoke of, the great hopes he had for the pastoral care of young people and how many initiatives arose as a result of WYD, during the conference Pope to the World. The 45th Anniversary of the Pontificate of John Paul II, which will take place on 17 October 2023 at the Museum of John Paul II and Primate Wyszyński.

In you there is hope, for you belong to the future,
just as the future belongs to you.
John Paul II, Apostolic Letter to the youth of the world Parati semper,
on the occasion of the International Youth Year, 31.03.1985.

I was looking for you!

World Youth Day is one of Pope John Paul II's many initiatives that is unfolding with extraordinary intensity. This year's theme for World Youth Day, which takes place in Lisbon from 1-6 August 2023, is Mary arose and went with haste (Lk 1:39). The organisers are expecting 1.5 million participants.

The idea for the creation of WYD goes back to the beginning of 1983, when John Paul II decided to make 1984 "a year of extraordinary holiness", commemorating the 1950th anniversary of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This festival of youth, as it is called, was officially proclaimed by John Paul II on 22 May 1983 in Milan, as part of the National Eucharistic Congress. The first meeting in Rome in 1984 brought together the vast majority of Italians: among the 150,000 registered, there were only 24,000 foreigners, i.e. 16.12% of the total. At that time, the Holy Father handed a cross to the youth and called on those gathered to carry that cross across all the continents of the world. After the first youth rally ended, the staff of the Pontifical Council for the Laity were not convinced if it should be continued. Yet the Pope insisted. When the United Nations declared 1985 as the International Youth Year, John Paul II became all the more committed to youth-related initiatives focused on the values and choices facing them. That year, he issued the beautiful and extraordinarily rich in content Letter to young people Parati semper:
In you there is hope, for you belong to the future, just as the future belongs to you. For hope is always linked to the future; it is the expectation of "future good things." (…) To you belongs responsibility for what will one day become reality together with yourselves, but which still lies in the future.

The 2002 convention in Toronto was the last with the participation of Pope John Paul II. Among the 187,000 registered, there were as many as 138,000 foreigners, i.e. 74% of the total, which means that WYD had truly become a celebration of young people from all over the world. Researchers on the subject continue to gather new facts and testimonies related to WYD. One of these concerns a gathering in the United States in 1993. During the Denver gathering, the helicopter pilot, a Vietnam veteran, struggled to maintain control of his plane during the descent to Mile High Stadium, due to the cheers of 90,000 young people, which caused turbulence.

The popularity of the event is linked to Karol Wojtyla's pastoral style. It is emphasised that he attracted young people to pray together, brought them together for Mass, and on top of that he always took everyone very seriously. He devoted a lot of time to individual conversations and listened attentively. Even as a novice curate, Fr Wojtyla was looking for young people who would "sing the Church" with him. In the pastoral ministry at St Florian's Church, they began with carols and Gregorian chants. During both the Krakow and papal periods, Karol Wojtyla - John Paul II was recognised as a man immersed in prayer and a relationship with God, and thus extremely authentic and credible. This was undoubtedly his strength in attracting young people from different generations, and it gave WYD an extraordinarily transcendent yet grounded dimension.

Today, just looking at estimates, the number of pilgrims attending World Youth Day exceeds 12 million. They were continued by Pope Benedict XVI as well as Pope Francis. Some time ago, unfinished discussions began in Poland on whether WYD, as part of the legacy of John Paul II, could be included on the list of World Intangible Cultural Heritage.