Procession with the WYD Cross in St. Peter's Square Procession with the WYD Cross in St. Peter's Square 

Cardinal Tolentino de Mendonça: WYD are indispensable, even after 40 years

Forty years after the first worldwide gathering of young people in St. Peter's Square in 1984, a procession carrying the World Youth Day Cross recalls the many fruits of the initiative set in motion by Pope St. John Paul II.

By Fr. Pawel Rytel-Andrianik

"Today, we thank the Lord for the great inspiration St. John Paul II had by convening the first WYD. We also thank how Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis lived those days. They lived WYD as an indispensable moment of the Church," said Cardinal José Tolentino de Mendonça, Prefect of the Dicastery for Culture and Education.

He spoke on Saturday evening during Mass in the St. Lawrence Center, 40 years after the first gathering of young people in St. Peter's Square, on April 14, 1984.

He stressed that World Youth Days have produced many “fruits of hope, love, fruits of youth, of springtime in the heart of the Church."

The Prefect of the Dicastery for Culture and Education told young people that Jesus invites all by saying, "Come, touch, see, eat."

"Christ is decisive in the human person's life,” he said. “The importance of Christ is not an abstract theoretical truth; it is something we have touched."

He pointed out that during World Youth Days, young people worldwide experience the joy of being believers, realizing human fraternity, hugging, praying, worshipping, listening, laughing, crying, and treasuring this experience of the Church.

"This transforms lives, has transformed the story of the great ones, and continues to transform our lives, our story,” said the Cardinal Prefect. “Christ does not want us to be spectators. Christ wants us to be witnesses. And the witness is the one who says, 'I have seen with my eyes, I have heard with my ears, I have touched.' This makes us a missionary Church, an outgoing Church."

Cardinal Tolentino de Mendonça stressed that Pope Francis asks young people not to be "at the balcony watching history pass by, but in the midst of history, making noise, but a noise that is not just noise; it is the good news."

He also quoted St. John Paul II saying that young people are the first evangelizers of other days.

"Christ is counting on you to heal wounds, open new horizons, build not a culture of death but a culture of life and build the civilization of love. Mary, present in every WYD as the reference point, helps us look at Christ," concluded Cardinal Tolentino de Mendonça.

The Prefect greeted those present, including the Secretary of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life, Mr. Gleison De Paula Souza, the Shalom Community, which provides pastoral care in St. Lawrence Church, and the people who were present 40 years ago and participated in the Mass. The day concluded with a vigil of prayer and adoration of the Cross, "Rise up."

The next day, on Sunday, April 14, the St. Lawrence Center hosted a celebration of Mass presided over by Cardinal Lazarus You Heung-Sik, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Clergy.

After the Mass, several people shared their experience of World Youth Days, as part of a commemoration recalling that first gathering in St. Peter’s Square.

After the gathering in 1984, St. John Paul II invited young people back to Rome in 1986 for the first World Youth Day.

The next World Youth Day will take place in Seoul, South Korea, in 2027. Before that event, there will be a Youth Jubilee in Rome in 2025.

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14 April 2024, 10:00