"When the Pope accepted his office in the Holy See, both inside and outside the Church, the belief that the Catholic Church is a rapidly aging institution in which young people no longer find a place, has been established. Post-conciliar confusion, consumerist prosperity and the youth revolt of the 1960s resulted, in particular in Western countries, in a dramatic decline in vocations and participation of young people in the life of the Church "(Maciej Zięba, "Jestem z Wami"/ "I'am with you", Krakow, 2010).
The pastoral experience of the new pope was, however, completely different, and as we know, from the beginning he devoted a lot of attention to the issues concerning young people. During his ministry in Kraków, Karol Wojtyła conducted a systematic pastoral work with young people: he organized a retreats and educational trips for them. He believed in young people; in their enthusiasm and ideals. Thus being already the Pope he referred to his pastoral experience when teaching the youth of the world. It is during the Krakow era that one can look for the origins of the idea of World Youth Day - a dynamic new phenomenon in the Church that was initiated during the pontificate of John Paul II.
At the end of the Jubilee Year of Redemption, the Pope in 1984 invited young people to Palm Sunday in Rome to celebrate the Youth Jubilee. About 600,000 young people from all over the world responded to the invitation! During this event, the Holy Father entrusted the Cross of the Holy Year to young people (which then became the Cross of World Youth Day). The UN designated 1985 as the International Youth Year. The Pope joined this initiative and once again invited young people to Rome. The vivid response of young people surprised many observers. Also this year, in a letter addressed to young people, "Parati semper" he announced that henceforth every year World Youth Day will be celebrated. The first official World Youth Day took place in Rome in 1986.
A unique meeting on Jasna Góra
A great meeting of the world's youth took place alternately in dioceses as well as in one place in the world with the special participation of Holy Father. In the Philippines in 1995, up to 5 million people participated in the main celebrations! Despite skeptical voices, it turned out that young people flock to these gatherings, even when they are held in secularized countries. Undoubtedly, World Youth Day - the "invention" of John Paul II - brought revival to the Church. Currently, it takes place every three years in a designated place in the world, and every year in dioceses.
It is worth mentioning that in 1991, after the collapse of the communist system, World Youth Day took place in Częstochowa. In Poland, young people from the East (USSR countries) and the West met. It was a great event that brought together young people from the then decaying Eastern Bloc (USSR) and from the West, two parts of Europe separated for many years by the so-called Iron Curtain. They had the opportunity to get to know each other, exchange experiences and celebrate together. On this occasion, the song "Abba Ojcze" ("Abba Father") was written, to which words were composed by Father Jan Góra. The next World Youth Day in Poland took place in 2016 in Krakow.
Fr. Marian Duda, organizer of WYD 1991 said:
During the pontificate of John Paul II, World Youth Day were held 19 times, of which 8 were international, in which the pope himself took part. International meetings were held in:
- 1987, Buenos Aires (Argentina), theme: "We have recognized the love that God has for us, and we have believed in it (1 Jn 4:16)";
- 1989, Santiago de Compostela (Spain), theme: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life (Jn 14:6)";
- 1991 r., Częstochowa (Poland), theme: "You have received a spirit of children (Rom 8:15)";
- 1993 r., Denver (USA), theme: "I came that they might have life, and have it to the full (Jn 10:10)";
- 1995 r. Manila (Philippines), theme: "As the Father has sent me, so am I sending you (Jn 20:21)";
- 1997 r., Paris (France), theme: "Teacher, where do you live? Come and see (cf. Jn 1:38–39)";
- 2000 r. Rome (Italy), theme: "The Word has became flesh and dwelt among us (Jn 1:14)";
- 2002 r. Toronto (Canada), theme: "You are the salt of the earth ... you are the light of the world (Mt 5:13–14)".