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HISTORY OF WORLD YOUTH DAYS

John Paul II's Special Gatherings with Youth

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 this year.

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."




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