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World Youth Days

It all began in 1984 but as St John Paul II put it: "No one invented the World Youth Days. It was the young people themselves who created them.. They've become a great & fascinating witness that young people give of themselves. They've become a powerful means of evangelization. In the young there is, in fact, an immense potential for good and for creative possibility."

Here young people talk about their experiences at a WYD / JMJ. Plus there's JPII's letter to his 'dearest young people' & the annual WYD / JMJ messages from our Papa (given on Palm Sunday, when WYD is celebrated on a diocesan level). If you've been to a WYD & would be happy to talk about your experience, please, pretty please, do contact the Totus2us team :o)

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St John Paul II's homily at WYD Denver 1993      
Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary
Cherry Creek State Park, Denver, Sunday 15th August

"It is above all the family that is under attack. And the sacred character of human life denied. Naturally, the weakest members of society are the most at risk: the unborn, children, the sick, the handicapped, the old, the poor and unemployed, the immigrant and refugee, the South of the world!

5. Young pilgrims, Christ needs you to enlighten the world and to show it the "path to life" (Ps 16, 11). The challenge is to make the Church’s "yes" to Life concrete and effective. The struggle will be long, and it needs each one of you. Place your intelligence, your talents, your enthusiasm, your compassion and your fortitude at the service of life!

Do not be afraid. The outcome of the battle for Life is already decided, even though the struggle goes on against great odds and with much suffering. This certainty is what the Second Reading declares: "Christ is now raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. in Christ all will come to life again" (1 Cor 15, 20-22). The paradox of the Christian message is this: Christ – the Head – has already conquered sin and death. Christ in his Body – the pilgrim People of God – continually suffers the onslaught of the Evil One and all the evil which sinful humanity is capable of.

6. At this stage of history, the liberating message of the Gospel of Life has been put into your hands. And the mission of proclaiming it to the ends of the earth is now passing to your generation. Like the great Apostle Paul, you too must feel the full urgency of the task: "Woe to me if I do not evangelize" (1 Cor 9, 16). Woe to you if you do not succeed in defending life. The Church needs your energies, your enthusiasm, your youthful ideals, in order to make the Gospel of Life penetrate the fabric of society, transforming people’s hearts and the structures of society in order to create a civilization of true justice and love. Now more than ever, in a world that is often without light and without the courage of noble ideals, people need the fresh, vital spirituality of the Gospel.

Do not be afraid to go out on the streets and into public places, like the first Apostles who preached Christ and the Good News of salvation in the squares of cities, towns and villages. This is no time to be ashamed of the Gospel (cf Rom 1,16). It is the time to preach it from the rooftops (cf Mat 10, 27). Do not be afraid to break out of comfortable and routine modes of living, in order to take up the challenge of making Christ known in the modern "metropolis". It is you who must "go out into the byroads" (Mat 22, 9) and invite everyone you meet to the banquet which God has prepared for his people. The Gospel must not be kept hidden because of fear or indifference. It was never meant to be hidden away in private. It has to be put on a stand so that people may see its light and give praise to our heavenly Father.

WYD / GMG Rome 2000
with Peter     

Peter, who's 38 & from England: "You kind of got the history of the whole place, what it was to be a Catholic, all the buildings, the Pope, the physical image of being a Catholic was an amazing bit and then the line of succession of the Popes and the Shrine of Turin. It was a huge experience just to like ‘right, I’m a Catholic. I am part of something, even though I’m just young.’ And there we were, it was amazing, however millions and John Paul II … It was an incredible event, I loved it!"

Pope St John Paul II (in Italian): "It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness; he is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; he is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is he who provokes you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is he who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is he who reads in your hearts your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle. It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be grounded down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal."

Benedict XVI's homily at WYD Sydney 2008  
Randwick Racecourse - Sunday, 20th July

"Dear young people, let me now ask you a question. What will you leave to the next generation? Are you building your lives on firm foundations, building something that will endure? Are you living your lives in a way that opens up space for the Spirit in the midst of a world that wants to forget God, or even rejects him in the name of a falsely-conceived freedom? How are you using the gifts you have been given, the “power” which the Holy Spirit is even now prepared to release within you? What legacy will you leave to young people yet to come? What difference will you make?

The power of the Holy Spirit does not only enlighten and console us. It also points us to the future, to the coming of God’s Kingdom. What a magnificent vision of a humanity redeemed and renewed we see in the new age promised by today’s Gospel! St Luke tells us that Jesus Christ is the fulfilment of all God’s promises, the Messiah who fully possesses the Holy Spirit in order to bestow that gift upon all mankind. The outpouring of Christ’s Spirit upon humanity is a pledge of hope and deliverance from everything that impoverishes us. It gives the blind new sight; it sets the downtrodden free, and it creates unity in and through diversity. This power can create a new world: it can “renew the face of the earth”!

Empowered by the Spirit, and drawing upon faith’s rich vision, a new generation of Christians is being called to help build a world in which God’s gift of life is welcomed, respected and cherished – not rejected, feared as a threat and destroyed. A new age in which love is not greedy or self-seeking, but pure, faithful and genuinely free, open to others, respectful of their dignity, seeking their good, radiating joy and beauty. A new age in which hope liberates us from the shallowness, apathy and self-absorption which deaden our souls and poison our relationships. Dear young friends, the Lord is asking you to be prophets of this new age, messengers of his love, drawing people to the Father and building a future of hope for all humanity.

The world needs this renewal! In so many of our societies, side by side with material prosperity, a spiritual desert is spreading: an interior emptiness, an unnamed fear, a quiet sense of despair. How many of our contemporaries have built broken and empty cisterns in a desperate search for meaning – the ultimate meaning that only love can give? This is the great and liberating gift which the Gospel brings: it reveals our dignity as men and women created in the image and likeness of God. It reveals humanity’s sublime calling, which is to find fulfilment in love. It discloses the truth about man and the truth about life.

Message for 33rd WYD by Papa Francis      
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
for you have found grace close to God”

.. In the moments when doubts and fears flood our hearts, discernment is essential.  It allows us to put order into the confusion of our thoughts and feelings, so as to act in a just and prudent way. In this process, the first thing to do to overcome the fears is to identify them with clarity, so as not to waste time and energy with ghosts that have no face nor consistency.  For this, I invite you to look inside yourselves and to “give a name” to your fears.  Ask yourselves: today, in my concrete situation, what is it that anguishes me, what is it that I fear the most?  What is it that blocks me and impedes me from moving forward?  Why do I not have the courage to make the important decisions that I must make?  Do not be afraid to look with sincerity at your fears, to recognize them with realism and to face them.  The Bible does not deny the human feeling of fear nor its many causes.  Abraham was afraid (cf Gen 12, 10s), Jacob was afraid (cf Gen 31, 31; 32, 7), and so were Moses (cf Ex 2, 14; 17, 4), Peter (cf Mt 26, 69ff) and the Apostles (cf Mk 4, 38-40; Mt 26, 56).  Jesus himself, albeit at an incomparable level, experienced fear and anguish (cf Mt 26, 37; Lk 22, 44).

“Why are you so afraid? Do you still not have faith?” (Mk 4, 40).  This reproach by Jesus to his disciples allows us to understand how the obstacle to faith is often not incredulity, but fear.  Thus, the effort of discernment, once the fears are identified, should help us to overcome them by opening us to life and by facing with serenity the challenges presented to us.  For Christians, concretely, fear should never have the last word, but it gives us the occasion to realize an act of faith in God… and also in life!  This means believing in the fundamental goodness of the existence that God has given us, trusting that He leads us to a good ending even if through circumstances and vicissitudes that are often mysterious to us.  If on the contrary we feed the fear, we will tend to close in on ourselves, to raise a barricade to defend ourselves against everything and everyone, remaining paralyzed.  We must react!  Never close in on ourselves!  In the Sacred Scriptures we find 365 times the expression “do not be afraid”, in all its variations. As if to say that every day of the year the Lord wants us free from fear. ..

Message for 31st WYD by Papa Francis    
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy”

.. God's mercy is very concrete and we are all called to experience it at firsthand. At the age of seventeen, one day when I had to go out with friends, I decided to pass by a church first. There I encountered a priest who inspired in me a special trust, in such a way that I felt the desire to open my heart in Confession. That encounter changed my life! I discovered that when we open our hearts with humility and transparency, we can in a very concrete way contemplate God's mercy. I had the certainty that in the person of that priest God was waiting for me, before I had taken the first step to go into that church. We seek him, but it is He who always goes before us, for he has always been seeking us, and is the first to encounter us. Perhaps some of you have a weight on your heart and are thinking: I have done this, I have done that.... Do not be afraid! He is waiting for you! He is the father: he is always awaiting us! How beautiful it is to encounter in the sacrament of Reconciliation the merciful embrace of the Father, to discover the confessional as the place of Mercy, let us be touched by this merciful love of the Lord who always forgives us!

And you, dear young man, dear young woman, have you ever felt this gaze of infinite love upon you which, beyond all your sins, limitations and failures, continues trusting in you and gazing upon your existence with hope? Are you aware of the value that you have before God who for love has given you everything? As St Paul teaches us “the proof that God loves us is that Christ died for us while we were still sinners” (Rom 5, 8). But do we really understand the power of these words?

WYD Sydney 2008
with Angela     

Angela, who's 25 & from Colombia: "At WYD Sydney everything was full of joy, all people in the street singing praises to the Lord, we welcomed the Pope. In every moment we were enjoying every part of it. I know that from that journey something changed in me. I came back home with a consciousness of what the Church is about and I am part of it.And with a fire in my heart that wanted to share this with more people."

Pope Benedict XVI: "Dear friends, life is not governed by chance; it is not random. Your very existence has been willed by God, blessed and given a purpose (cf Gen 1, 28)! Life is not just a succession of events or experiences, helpful though many of them are. It is a search for the true, the good and the beautiful. It is to this end that we make our choices; it is for this that we exercise our freedom; it is in this – in truth, in goodness, and in beauty – that we find happiness and joy. Do not be fooled by those who see you as just another consumer in a market of undifferentiated possibilities, where choice itself becomes the good, novelty usurps beauty, and subjective experience displaces truth.

Christ offers more! Indeed he offers everything! Only he who is the Truth can be the Way and hence also the Life. Thus the “way” which the Apostles brought to the ends of the earth is life in Christ. This is the life of the Church. And the entrance to this life, to the Christian way, is Baptism."

Message for 30th WYD by Papa Francis      
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”

The most precious good that we can have in life is our relationship with God. Are you convinced of this? Are you aware of the inestimable value that you have in the eyes of God? Do you know that He appreciates you and loves you unconditionally? When this perception disappears, the human being becomes an incomprehensible enigma, because it is precisely the knowledge of  being loved unconditionally by God which gives meaning to our lives. Remember Jesus' conversation with the rich young man (cf Mk 10, 17-22)? The evangelist Mark says that Jesus gazed upon him with affection, and then invited him to follow him so as to find the true treasure. Dear young people, I wish that this gaze of Christ, full of love, accompanies you throughout your whole life.

Youth is a period in which emerges the great affective wealth in your hearts, the profound desire for a love that is true, beautiful and great. How much energy is in this capacity to love and be loved! Do not allow this most precious value to be falsified, destroyed or defaced. This happens when our relationships are marked by the instrumentalization of one's neighbour for ones own selfish ends, sometimes as mere objects of pleasure. The heart is wounded and sad following these negative experiences. I beg you: do not be afraid of true love, the one that Jesus teaches us and that Saint Paul describes thus “Love is patient and kind; it is not jealous, it does not boast, it is not puffed up with pride, it is not rude or selfish, it is not angry, nor does it take into account a wrong suffered; it is not glad in injustice but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love will never end.” (1 Cor 13, 4-8).

While inviting you to discover the beauty of the human vocation to love, I also urge you to rebel against the widespread tendency to trivialize love, above all when it seeks to reduce love only to its sexual aspect, thus depriving it of its essential characteristics of beauty, communion, fidelity and responsibility. Dear young people, “in a culture of the provisional, of the relative, many preach that the important thing is 'to enjoy' the moment, that it is not worth committing oneself for the whole of life, making definitive choices, ‘forever’, because one does not know what will happen tomorrow. I, however, ask you to be revolutionaries, I ask you to go against the current; yes, in this I ask you to rebel against this culture of the provisional, which, at its base, believes that you are not capable of assuming responsibility, believes that you are not capable of loving truly. I have confidence in you, young people, and I pray for you. Dare to go against the current. And dare also to be happy” (Meeting with the volunteers at WYD Rio, 28 July 2013). ...

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Mt 5, 8). Dear young people, as you see, this Beatitude touches very closely your existence and is a guarantee of your happiness. Hence I repeat to you once more: have the courage to be happy!

JMJ Madrid
with Laura & Carlene (sisters)      

Laura, who's 27 & from London: "From Santiago we went on to Madrid to see el Papa, Benedict XVI, and that was an amazing experience too. We went to the aerodrome, there were two million other Catholics there too, there were papal flags waving and national flags from countries from all over the world. It was very hot to begin with but it was just such a rich experience to be there in solidarity with so many other young people. Even during the day time when we were exploring around Madrid and you had a little freebie pass to get a lunch on the Pope's behalf, so queuing up for that you got to really like talk to the other pilgrims. It's such an amazing atmosphere. The transport system is alive with young people with flags and different musical instruments, and singing and dancing (particularly the Brazilians, they're particularly good at dancing). So it was just such a joyful, wonderful experience. And then we had the Holy Hour in the aerodrome at night with Pope Benedict which was quite something!"

Carlene, who's 29 & from England: "I went to World Youth Day not really believing in God too much, not wanting anything to do with it, thinking it was all a bit boring and brass, and people were a bit fuddy-duddy who were Christian, to be honest with you. I was a cradle Catholic, I went to a Catholic school but in life I just fell away from the religion, by choice really. Anyway I took my sister to WYD for a present for her because she is very religious, and ended up going along, thinking that I could just like go for the holiday. Then I started to meet all the families and all the people that had Catholicism weaved into their lives, and the pride that the family who accommodated us had. Seeing the millions of young Catholics gave me a different perspective. .. It was quite amazing to see how many people there were and to think that there was a diversity in the religion and everyone wasn't like 'hills are alive with the sound of music' people and you didn't have to be put into a certain box. You've got the freedom to be yourself.."

Pape Benoît XVI: "Dear young people, in these moments of silence before the Blessed Sacrament, let us raise our minds and hearts to Jesus Christ, the Lord of our lives and of the future. May he pour out his Spirit upon us and upon the whole Church, that we may be a beacon of freedom, reconciliation and peace for the whole world."

Music - Firm in Faith by Ooberfuse (1 of the Madrid Me Encanta winners)

with Teresa, Tom & Rita      

Teresa, who's 19 & from Spain: "World Youth Day Madrid impressed me so much because I saw the affection of the Pope to the young people and I felt like a big family and I realised the universality of the Church and that there are many young people that share the same faith."

Tom, who's 26 & a seminarian from England: "My experience of this World Youth Day in Madrid has been wonderful. Really you can see the whole purpose of World Youth Day - to promote the family life, to promote Catholic culture and education, and it's all with the Lord. In fact, at the vigil I had this great experience that we weren't there to see the Pope, we were there to be with the Pope worshipping Our Lord. And to anyone who hasn't been to WYD, I'd say 'You must come, to understand the universality of the Church, the youth of the Church and the joy that is in the Church."

Rita, who's from Martinique: "When we got to Madrid, it was like meeting loads of different people from all over the world and meeting loads of great friends - we were kind of like a bunch of family now."

Pape Benoît XVI: "Chers jeunes francophones, soyez fiers d’avoir reçu le don de la foi, c’est elle qui illuminera votre vie à chaque instant. Appuyez-vous sur la foi de vos proches, sur la foi de l’Église! Par la foi, nous sommes fondés dans le Christ. Retrouvez-vous avec d’autres pour l’approfondir, fréquentez l’Eucharistie, mystère de la foi par excellence. Le Christ seul peut répondre aux aspirations que vous portez en vous. Laissez-vous saisir par Dieu pour que votre présence dans l’Église lui donne un élan nouveau!"

Music - We've Been Made One by Darryll Wilson (1 of the Madrid Me Encanta winners)

with Philippa, Becka, Glen & Michel      

Philippa, who's 16 & from London: "I had the most amazing time. I absolutely loved Mass with the Pope on Sunday morning and it's just incredible when you go to meet two million other young people and you make so many friends. When you're walking around and you're on the trains and you're going from place to place, you meet so many people and you get to swap wrist bands and they add you on Facebook! And it's just amazing when you go to each event to see so many people of your own faith celebrating the same things and to find people who believe the same. Because when you're at home, you might be the only young person in your parish but when you go here you realise there are so many more of you."

Becka, who's from Liverpool:"I think it's amazing the Holy Father because he's the one who obviously guides the Catholic Church and to see him here with us, it just unifies everyone and it's the reason why we're all here together, sort of thing. Obviously I think we can learn and grow from what he is teaching us."

Glen, who's 20 & from the Philippines: "When we got to Madrid, it was like meeting loads of different people from all over the world and meeting loads of great friends - we were kind of like a bunch of family now."

Michel, from the Netherlands: "The Pope he is like the Catholic Church and he has the values of the Catholic Church, that's why he is the Pope. I think it's beautiful how many young people want to be like Jesus and they need the Pope for that also, because the Pope says things about believing and, yah, it's beautiful."

Pope Benedict XVI: "I greet all the English-speaking young people present here today! As you return home, take back with you the good news of Christ’s love which we have experienced in these unforgettable days. Fix your eyes upon him, deepen your knowledge of the Gospel and bring forth abundant fruit! God bless all of you until we meet again!"

Music - Unshakeable by Ooberfuse (1 of the Madrid Me Encanta winners)

JMJ Santiago 1989 with Ernest      

Ernest Williams, from England, speaks about how his time over the summer of 1989 in Medjugorje, at WYD Santiago with JPII & then in Fatima, led to him founding Youth 2000: "We came back early the next morning and it's a funny sight seeing a sea of half a million young people waking up, having slept in sleeping bags outside on the hilltop all night long. We arrived and filmed the Mass that morning. It was a beautiful Mass, visually quite stunning. And what I remember the most, because again it was all in Spanish (and some in French and Italian) the only point where he spoke in English and that's where I was able to register and it really stood out for me, was at the very end when John Paul II sent the young people off back to their countries to begin this mission of evangelization, which was the whole theme. He spoke these words in English: "Dear young people, let us commit our lives to Mary, the Mother of Jesus, her Son, the way, the truth and the life, and then we shall become the burning messengers of the new evangelisation and the generous builders of a new civilization of truth and love." When I heard these words, it struck something deep in my heart and I knew I had to respond. I knew I had to respond and I wanted to respond in a very direct way to this call and this challenge."

Message for 29th WYD by Papa Francis      
“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”

In proclaiming the Beatitudes Jesus invites us to follow him, to walk with Him the way of love, the only one that leads to eternal life. It is not an easy road, yet the Lord assures us of his grace and he never leaves us on our own. Present in our lives are poverty, distress, humiliation, the fight for justice, the fatigue of daily conversion, the struggle to live the call to holiness, persecutions and so many other challenges. But if we open the door to Jesus, if we allow Him to enter into our history, if we share with Him our joys and sorrows, we will experience a peace and a joy that only God, infinite love, can give.

.. Jesus calls upon us, dear young people, to respond to his proposal of life, to decide which road we want to walk so as to arrive at true joy. It concerns a great challenge of faith. Jesus was not afraid to ask his disciples if they wanted really to follow him or rather to go by other ways (cf Jn 6, 67). And Simon Peter had the courage to reply: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (Jn 6, 68). If you also know to say “yes” to Jesus, your young lives will be full of meaning and thus will be fruitful.

WYD Toronto 2002 with JPII & Ugo      

Pope John Paul II: "Dear Young People, the time has come for us to say our goodbye. It is time for us to return to our daily paths and like salt which adds taste, to bring the flavour of this day to our families & friends, to our work, our studies and our relatives. The time has come for us to make today's message a part of our every day life. In your backpacks each of you was given a wooden cross. Now is the time to put on that cross. Look to it and you will be the light of the world. Learn from that cross the heart of the priestly life and you will be the salt of the earth. As you journey throughout life towards the kingdom, my apostolic blessing accompanies you always."

Ugo, who's from Nigeria: "The World Youth Day in Toronto prepared my faith to know, love and cherish God, and just not to be afraid. As our late Pope, Blessed John Paul II said: 'Do not be afraid to say yes to Jesus, do not be afraid to love Jesus, do not be afraid to serve Jesus, do not be afraid to visit Jesus, do not be afraid to open your door to Jesus. It's yes, yes, yes all the way because Jesus is meek and humble of heart. That's my experience of World Youth Day - it was beautiful."

Pope John Paul II: "Even a tiny flame lifts the heavy lid of night. How much more light will you make, all together, if you bond as one in the communion of the Church! If you love Jesus, love the Church! Do not be discouraged by the sins and failings of some of her members. The harm done by some priests and religious to the young and vulnerable fills us all with a deep sense of sadness and shame. But think of the vast majority of dedicated and generous priests and religious whose only wish is to serve and do good! There are many priests, seminarians and consecrated persons here today; be close to them and support them! And if, in the depths of your hearts, you feel the same call to the priesthood or consecrated life, do not be afraid to follow Christ on the royal road of the Cross! At difficult moments in the Church's life, the pursuit of holiness becomes even more urgent. And holiness is not a question of age; it is a matter of living in the Holy Spirit, just as Kateri Tekakwitha did here in America and so many other young people have done.

You are young, and the Pope is old, 82 or 83 years of life is not the same as 22 or 23. But the Pope still fully identifies with your hopes and aspirations. Although I have lived through much darkness, under harsh totalitarian regimes, I have seen enough evidence to be unshakably convinced that no difficulty, no fear is so great that it can completely suffocate the hope that springs eternal in the hearts of the young. You are our hope, the young are our hope.

Do not let that hope die! Stake your lives on it! We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures; we are the sum of the Father's love for us and our real capacity to become the image of his Son.

I finish with a prayer.

O Lord Jesus Christ,
keep these young people in your love.
Let them hear your voice
and believe what you say,
for you alone have the words of life.
Teach them how to profess their faith,
bestow their love,
and impart their hope to others.
Make them convincing witnesses to your Gospel
in a world so much in need of your saving grace.
Make them the new people of the Beatitudes,
that they may be the salt of the earth and the light of the world
at the beginning of the Third Christian Millennium!
Mary, Mother of the Church, protect and guide
these young men and women of the twenty-first century.
Keep us all close to your maternal heart. Amen."

with Alex & Patrick      

Alex, who's 19 & from the UK: "When I was in Rio, the thing that blew me away was just the way that you could see the Holy Spirit was really working alongside the event. The thing that gave it away completely for me was when we had to change the location of the final event from Campus Fidei to Copacabana beach, and this whole operation happened in a matter of just two or three days. When you think that the people preparing for Campus Fidei for all the pilgrims had been working or months and then they just had to change the location almost overnight. But looking at the way the event turned out, it was a huge success, it was absolutely amazing, you wouldn't have thought that something as huge as that could have changed so quickly."

Patrick, who's 28 & half Brit, half Swiss: "It was great to be in Rio with Pope Francis and to hear the messages he had for us. He instructed us to put Christ on, to not just stay in the institutions or the Church but to really go out and make disciples of all nations. One of the things that he asked us to do was to create havoc, which is quite a strong word but one which probably appeals a lot to young people and something that hopefully we can do with our faith. Obviously in a positive way, a constructive way, but not to be afraid to cause shock waves and to really get out and make Jesus known and the Catholic faith known and the beauty that exists within it to others."

Pope Francis: "Let us ask Our Lady to help us too to give Christ’s joy to our families, our companions, our friends, to everyone. Never be afraid to be generous with Christ. It is worth it! Go out and set off with courage and generosity, so that every man and every woman may meet the Lord."

Music - Go by Ooberfuse

with Paula      

Paula, who's 37 & from Chile: "I have attended two World Youth Days in my life: Madrid in 2011 and Rio de Janeiro in 2013. Both have been very different experiences and both have been totally life-changing. ..I attended JMJ in Rio as an international volunteer .. I will never forget when Pope Francis visited Our Lady of Aparecida and the devotion, love and kisses he gave not only to many pilgrims gathered there to see him but also to the statue of Our Lady. The way he embraced and carried her with such love and tenderness, like a son looks after his mother, it was a great testimony of love to the Virgin Mary and it was very moving to see."

Papa Francisco: "Queridos jovens,.. Primeiramente quero lhes agradecer pelo testemunho de fé que vocês estão dando ao mundo. .. Vocês são verdadeiros heróis!Vejo em vocês a beleza do rosto jovem de Cristo e meu coração se enche de alegria! Lembro-me da primeira Jornada Mundial da Juventude a nível internacional. Foi celebrada em 1987 na Argentina, na minha cidade de Buenos Aires. Guardo vivas na memória estas palavras do Bem-aventurado João Paulo II aos jovens: «Tenho muita esperança em vocês! Espero, sobretudo, que renovem a fidelidade de vocês a Jesus Cristo e à sua cruz redentora»."

"Queridos amigos, se caminhamos na esperança, deixando-nos surpreender pelo vinho novo que Jesus nos oferece, há alegria no nosso coração e não podemos deixar de ser testemunhas dessa alegria. O cristão é alegre, nunca está triste. Deus nos acompanha. Temos uma Mãe que sempre intercede pela vida dos seus filhos, por nós, como a rainha Ester na primeira leitura (cf. Est 5, 3). Jesus nos mostrou que a face de Deus é a de um Pai que nos ama. O pecado e a morte foram derrotados. O cristão não pode ser pessimista! Não pode ter uma cara de quem parece num constante estado de luto. Se estivermos verdadeiramente enamorados de Cristo e sentirmos o quanto Ele nos ama, o nosso coração se “incendiará” de tal alegria que contagiará quem estiver ao nosso lado. Como dizia Bento XVI, aqui neste Santuário: «O discípulo sabe que sem Cristo não há luz, não há esperança, não há amor, não há futuro” (13 de maio de 2007).

Queridos amigos, viemos bater à porta da casa de Maria. Ela abriu-nos, fez-nos entrar e nos aponta o seu Filho. Agora Ela nos pede: «Fazei o que Ele vos disser» (Jo 2,5). Sim, Mãe, nos comprometemos a fazer o que Jesus nos disser! E o faremos com esperança, confiantes nas surpresas de Deus e cheios de alegria. Assim seja."

with Claz      

Claz, who's 30 & from London: "World Youth Day Brazil was spectacular. It was unbelievably blessed … To see somebody opening their heart to Christ's message, to Christ's love was for me absolutely life-changing. So I highly recommend that if you're interested in going to a WYD, try and find a group that goes for the whole two weeks where you've got the first week of missionary work and the second week of general World Youth Day activities, because how this impacts you can really, really change something in your life and allow God to really touch your heart there as well."

Pope Francis [in Portuguese]: "As I express my thanks and bid farewell, my thoughts turn to those who are at the heart of these celebrations: the young people! May God bless you for the beautiful witness of your lives and for your intense and joyful participation over these last few days. Many of you came here as disciples; I have no doubt that all of you will leave as missionaries. Through your joyful witness and service, help to build a civilization of love. Show, by your life, that it is worth giving your time and talents in order to attain high ideals, it is worth recognizing the dignity of each human person, and it is worth taking risks for Christ and his Gospel. It is he that we have come to seek because he first sought us. It is he who has inflamed our hearts with the desire to take the Good News to the large cities and to the small communities, to the countryside and to all the corners of this vast planet. I will always place my hopes in the young people of Brazil and in the young around the world: through them, Christ is preparing a new springtime all over the earth. I have seen its first fruits and I know that others will joyfully reap the full harvest."

Message for 28th WYD by Benedict XVI      
“Go and make disciples of all nations”

I desire first of all to renew my invitation to you to participate in this important event. The famous statue of Christ the Redeemer, which overlooks this beautiful Brazilian city, will be the eloquent symbol: his open arms are a sign of the welcome that the Lord will reserve for all those who will come to Him and his heart depicts the immense love that He has for each and every one of you. Let yourselves be attracted by Him! Live this experience of encounter with Christ, together with so many other young people who will converge on Rio for the next World Youth Day! Let yourselves be loved by Him and you will be the witnesses the world needs.

I invite you to prepare for World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro by meditating from now on upon the theme of the meeting: “Go and make disciples of all nations!” (cf Mt 28:19). This is the great missionary exhortation which Christ left to the whole Church and which remains actual still today, 2000 years later. Now this mandate must resonate with force in your hearts. The year of preparation for the gathering in Rio coincides with the Year of Faith, at the beginning of which the Synod of Bishops dedicated their work to 'The New Evangelization for the transmission of the Christian Faith'. So I am happy that you too, dear young people, are involved in this missionary outreach of the whole Church: to make Christ known is the most precious gift that you can make for others.

with Elena, Peter, Alejandro & Stephen      

Elena, who's 21 & from Lithuania: "Before coming, I really had a lot of struggles and I felt sad. For me it was very hard to understand how to be joyful - I didn't have joy in my heart. During this trip, I heard the passages from the letters of St Paul, writing about the joy while he was in prison. And for me it was a very, very important message and I really experienced a great joy with millions of people from all over the world."

Peter, who's 17 & from London:"My experience of World Youth Day has been fantastic and it has been inspiring to see so many young Catholics in one place. Maybe the best part was being on the trains - just living with the atmosphere, everyone singing songs together and everyone united."

Alejandro, who's from Paraguay: "I think this meeting was a very good experience because I met with a lot of people. I came alone so I made a lot of friends."

Stephen, who's 22 & from England: "It was awesome to be at the final vigil and see another 1.5 million young Catholics who'd chosen to be there too. It's beyond comprehension the organisation of it all and all those different people with their various lives, but we'd all decided that this was a priority for each of us. How wonderful it would have been to have spoken to everyone of them to find out exactly what their reasons for attending were and their journey with God up to that stage. So, yeh, it was marvellous"

Pope Benedict XVI: "Dear young people, in these moments of silence before the Blessed Sacrament, let us raise our minds and hearts to Jesus Christ, the Lord of our lives and of the future. May he pour out his Spirit upon us and upon the whole Church, that we may be a beacon of freedom, reconciliation and peace for the whole world."

Music - Firmes en la Fe - JMJ 2011 theme song

with Peter, Meike & Ernest      

Peter, who's 17 & from England: "My experience of World Youth Day has been fantastic and it’s been inspiring to see so many young Catholics in one place. I think maybe the best part was being on the trains, living with the atmosphere: everyone singing songs together and everyone united. If you haven’t been, you should definitely come along. Even if you’re not a Catholic, it’s a fantastic experience."

Meike, who's 16 & from England: "I went to World Youth Day Madrid and it was amazing. The best bit was seeing two million other young Catholics which really makes you realise that you’re not the only one, because often it feels like you’re the only young Catholic in the area."

Ernest, who's 19 & a seminarian from Spain: "We were preparing this World Youth Day from a long time ago. It was really great. I had the opportunity to be so near to the Pope, it really affirmed my vocation. I was so happy. It was so tiring to prepare all the stuff, to live all these things but it really, really matters a lot to us - to my friends, to my family, to all of us, it was awesome. I don’t have any words to describe it, I just want to live it again in Rio."

Papa Bento XVI: "Meus queridos amigos, convido cada um e cada uma de vós a estabelecer um diálogo pessoal com Cristo, expondo-Lhe as próprias dúvidas e sobretudo escutando-O. O Senhor está aqui e chama-te! Jovens amigos, vale a pena ouvir dentro de nós a Palavra de Jesus e caminhar seguindo os seus passos. Pedi ao Senhor que vos ajude a descobrir a vossa vocação na vida e na Igreja, e a perseverar nela com alegria e fidelidade, sabendo que Ele nunca vos abandona nem atraiçoa! Ele está connosco até ao fim do mundo."

Music - Unshakeable by Ooberfuse (1 of the Madrid Me Encanta winners)

with Ed, Charis & Sadora      

Ed, who's from near London: "I think it’s very important that young people get together and explore their faith together, as opposed to on their own, because sometimes there are a lot of questions which arise that can remain unanswered. A lot of times people can feel quite isolated, especially when there's no-one to discuss these issues with. So when you have so many people, not just from England but from all over the world, come together and celebrate their faith together, celebrating their love for Christ, Christ's love for us together, especially before the Holy Father who has invited us to go and see him, it's a real boost, it really strengthens you in faith."

Charis, who's from England: "I suppose I didn’t really know what to expect coming to World Youth Day, but I’ve found that I’ve grown a lot closer to God through all the different activities and AMAZING talks there have been. The important thing I thought when I came was like getting to know loads of people and just experiencing all the excitement and everything but I found that what was the really important thing was meeting God in a whole new way and spending time in adoration .. And just seeing the faith and devotion of so many young people has been incredible, so I'd definitely say 'Come to World Youth Day in Brazil'."

Sadora, who's 29 & from America: "My favorite thing about World Youth Day is being with the Holy Father. So for anyone that's never been, it's a way of really uniting yourself not just spiritually but physically also with the Vicar of Christ, and for me that's really powerful. And to share that amongst other Catholics when many times you feel alone in the faith, it's profoundly beautiful. So my favorite thing was the vigil and the Mass with Pope Benedict XVI. My experience has been amazing .. you just get excited about being Catholic. So if you need help in your faith, just to grow in it, please come, come to Rio de Janeiro."

Pope Benedict XVI: "I greet all the English-speaking young people present here today! As you return home, take back with you the good news of Christ’s love which we have experienced in these unforgettable days. Fix your eyes upon him, deepen your knowledge of the Gospel and bring forth abundant fruit! God bless all of you until we meet again!"

Music - We've Been Made One by Darryll Wilson (1 of the Madrid Me Encanta winners)

with Cynthia, James & Edward       

Cynthia, who's 32 & from Argentina: "The World Youth Day was amazing and I couldn't believe there were so many young people here and they all came just to see the Pope and they all share the same faith … Having seen all these people here, it was just like a pre, like how it would be in heaven, everyone worshiping and adoring God."

James, who's from England:"If you've never been to World Youth Day before, I'd really recommend it, it's a fantastic experience. It's really an opportunity to deepen your relationship with Jesus Christ, and to meet other young Catholics and really firm yourself up in the faith and learn more about the Catholic faith."

Edward, who's 22 & from England: "It was such a fantastic experience to see all these young people here for the Pope, here for the Church, here for Jesus, here for the universal Church. There were so many translation barriers but we all had in common: adoration, the Mass, the rosary, the set prayers, praise and worship songs. This was our language, this was the language of the Catholic Church and it was just fantastic to see."

Papa Benedetto XVI: "Cari giovani di lingua italiana! Vi saluto tutti! L’Eucaristia che abbiamo celebrato è Cristo risorto presente e vivo in mezzo a noi: grazie a Lui, la vostra vita è radicata e fondata in Dio, salda nella fede. Con questa certezza, ripartite da Madrid e annunciate a tutti ciò che avete visto e udito. Rispondete con gioia alla chiamata del Signore, seguiteLo e rimanete sempre uniti a Lui: porterete molto frutto!"

Music - Faith in You by Ooberfuse (1 of the Madrid Me Encanta winners)

with Peter, Sister Mary Benedicta & Rob      

Peter, who's from England: "My experience of World Youth Day has just been an absolutely incredible week of Christian and Catholic love and life and liveliness, and just seeing and meeting so many young people. ..This has showed me just how true and how real the Catholic faith is. "

Sr Mary Benedicta OP, who's from Nigeria: "It's been a wonderful experience for me but what stood out in all of this for me was experiencing the universality of the Church, the whole world coming together, united in one faith, in one love, praying with the Holy Father who is the Vicar of Christ."

Rob, who's 17 & from the UK: "It was a good experience; this is the first time I have come to a World Youth Day and I like it so much. .. The combination between the Arabs and the Israelis, it's good that they have a community here that gathers all people, that we pray altogether and we put everything aside and just have the religion that brings us all together."

Pape Benoît XVI: "Chers jeunes de langue française, le Christ vous demande aujourd’hui d’être enracinés en Lui et de bâtir avec Lui votre vie sur le roc qu’il est Lui-même. Il vous envoie pour être des témoins courageux et sans complexes, authentiques et crédibles ! N’ayez pas peur d’être catholiques, d’en témoigner toujours autour de vous avec simplicité et sincérité ! Que l’Église trouve en vous et en votre jeunesse les missionnaires joyeux de la Bonne Nouvelle!"

Music - Unshakeable by Ooberfuse (1 of the Madrid Me Encanta winners)

with Padre Francesco, Lana, Ferdi & Milad    

Father Francesco, from Italy: "We came here with a group of 400 people from Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Cyprus and Iraq; we have also Israeli Arabs, not just Palestinian Arabs; we are from the Neocatechumenical Way. So all these youth coming from all these countries in the Middle East are making a very deep way of faith; and so also this way of faith makes possible this communion between us, between our cultures, in Jesus Christ."

Lana, from Israel: "The great thing about this is that I really know deep inside that the only thing that unites all these nations from all around the world is Jesus. So that's why I'm very happy to be here because I know that they all came for Jesus Christ; that's why it's very nice to know that we all came for the same goal, to find the same thing."

Ferdi, from Israel: "It was a good experience; this is the first time I have come to a World Youth Day and I like it so much. .. The combination between the Arabs and the Israelis, it's good that they have a community here that gathers all people, that we pray altogether and we put everything aside and just have the religion that brings us all together."

Milad, from Israel: "It's a great emotion to be together really. We feel that the unique person who unites us is Jesus Christ. We are coming from different countries with very difficult history and wars etc, but I see on this pilgrimage that we are together as brothers. In the one of the homilies that one of the bishops here in Spain said 'It is a very strong sign to see all these flags here together, from Jordan, Palestine, Israel and Iraq, all together, with all the flags; that politicians didn't succeed to unite them but Jesus Christ, yes he did, he did succeed to unite these people. I think that if there is love among persons, I think we will succeed, we will succeed to do this peace, peace in the spirit of Christ."

Papa Benedetto XVI: "Mi rivolgo ora ai giovani di lingua italiana. Cari amici, questa Veglia rimarrà come un’esperienza indimenticabile della vostra vita. Custodite la fiamma che Dio ha acceso nei vostri cuori in questa notte: fate in modo che non si spenga, alimentatela ogni giorno, condividetela con i vostri coetanei che vivono nel buio e cercano una luce per il loro cammino. Grazie!"

Music - Firmes en la Fe - JMJ 2011 theme song

con Teresa, Miguel & Concha (en español)  

Teresa, 19 y de España: "Lo que me impresiono mas de la JMJ fue ver el carino que tiene el Papa hacia los jovenes y ver pues todo gracias a que era el aniversario de Galicia y ver que tantos jovenes compartimos la misma fe."

Miguel, 18 y de España: "Pues siendo voluntario me sorprendio mucho muchisimo lo buena que era la gente de tantos paises que vanian gente de tantos, tantos paises incluso paises con persecusione a los cirtianos tanta gente y fueron todos tan amables y tan agradecidos con los voluntarios, lo bien que nos trataron, asi que da gusto trabajar, porque a pesar de dormir poco, incomodo y tal fue maravilloso trabajar en la JMJ. Tambien me contaron gente muy cercana y amigos y todo pues que se fueron convirtiendo o se acercaron mas a Dios y asi por ejemplo si te vaz para España y tambien para Europa y el mundo entero."

Concha, 17 y de España: "En este JMJ he descubierto la alegria que hace que todo el mundo sea amable y que nos comportemos todos como una gran familia y el Papel adjunto de ahi el el que la tiene quer sostener, que le tiene que dar vida y eso es lo que nos recuerda del Papa que nos lo va diciendo para que no nos olvidemos."

Papa Benedicto XVI: "Queridos amigos, antes de despedirnos, y a la vez que los jóvenes de España entregan a los de Brasil la cruz de las Jornadas Mundiales de la Juventud, como Sucesor de Pedro, confío a todos los aquí presentes este gran cometido: Llevad el conocimiento y el amor de Cristo por todo el mundo. Él quiere que seáis sus apóstoles en el siglo veintiuno y los mensajeros de su alegría. ¡No lo defraudéis! Muchas gracias."

Música - Firmes en la Fe - JMJ 2011 canción

with Cecilia, David & Dominic       

Cecilia, who's from Argentina: "The best experience of WYD was to meet people from all over the world, all the young people, and to share with them different experiences and prayers to our God. So for me it was very special. It was my first time at World Youth Day and I'm very happy to be in Spain, everybody was very friendly. We can see our Church, how rich it is and how we can be altogether, if we want to think about our future, our projects and our ideas. So I am very happy to be a Catholic and this was the best experience for me."

David, who's a seminarian from England: "The thing that really stood out for me was the response to the catecheses sessions from the young people because the questions they asked really revealed their life of prayer, their life of faith, in a way that I'd never expected and to a depth I'd never expected, so that was very encouraging, as was the public devotion you saw all around the city."

Dominic, who's 19 & also from England: "The experience of being around so many other young Catholics, it's just fantastic."

Papa Bento XVI: "Queridos jovens e amigos de língua portuguesa, encontrastes Jesus Cristo! Sentir-vos-eis em contra-corrente no meio duma sociedade onde impera a cultura relativista que renuncia a buscar e a possuir a verdade. Mas foi para este momento da história, cheio de grandes desafios e oportunidades, que o Senhor vos mandou: para que, graças à vossa fé, continue a ressoar a Boa Nova de Cristo por toda a terra. Espero poder encontrar-vos daqui a dois anos, na próxima Jornada Mundial da Juventude, no Rio de Janeiro, Brasil. Até lá, rezemos uns pelos outros, dando testemunho da alegria que brota de viver enraizados e edificados em Cristo. Até breve, queridos jovens! Que Deus vos abençoe!"

MusicWe've Been Made One by Darryll Wilson (1 of the Madrid Me Encanta winners)

with Jessica, Miguel & Kirsty       

Jessica, who's 16 & from England: "The experience for me was life-changing. It was one of the best trips I've ever been on. My favourite part was the very last Mass said by the Pope because it was moving and even though there was a storm, he was so moved by our spirits that he didn't want to leave."

Miguel, who's 17 & also from England:"My favourite experience from World Youth Day was must definitely have been the overnight vigil with the apocalyptic storm and then Mass on Sunday morning. It was an incredible experience."

Kirsty, who's 22 & from England too: "For me the best part of World Youth Day is like sharing your faith with other people from all around the world who all believe in Christ because that's absolutely amazing. And you get to talk to them, see what life is like being a Christian in their countries, they show you a bit of their culture and you can share theirs."

Papst Benedikt XVI: "Liebe junge Christen deutscher Sprache! Tief in unserem Herzen sehnen wir uns nach dem Großen und Schönen im Leben. Laßt eure Wünsche und Sehnsüchte nicht ins Leere laufen, sondern macht sie fest in Jesus Christus. Er selber ist der Grund, der trägt, und der sichere Bezugspunkt für ein erfülltes Leben."

Music - Unshakeable by Ooberfuse (1 of the Madrid Me Encanta winners)

with Jerome, Emily & Alithea       

Jerome, who's 21 & from England: "The best part for me of WYD Madrid for me was the adoration with the Pope and the moment when the Pope gave Benediction. It was just incredibly powerful seeing the effect the Holy Father and the Blessed Sacrament had on all the young people there. The witness of over 2 million young Catholics for me was incredible and it has really helped me with my faith."

Emily, who's 16 & also from England:"The best part of WYD was meeting loads of different Catholics and getting to know other people's cultures, and like just everyone being so happy and celebrating; getting to see the Pope and everyone having the same views on everything. I'd recommend it to anyone because it was just so uplifting."

Alithea, who's 21 & from England too: "One of the best experiences was the Stations of the Cross.. it was just amazing because there were so many people all out on this road just sat down, like it was such a prayerful atmosphere, everyone was quiet and joining in the bits they could in their own languages, so that was beautiful. "

Pope Benedict XVI: "I greet all the English-speaking young people present here today! As you return home, take back with you the good news of Christ’s love which we have experienced in these unforgettable days. Fix your eyes upon him, deepen your knowledge of the Gospel and bring forth abundant fruit! God bless all of you until we meet again!"

Music - Faith in You by Ooberfuse (1 of the Madrid Me Encanta winners)

with Kieran, Magdalen & Joe       

Kieran, who's 19 & from England: "It's been an incredible experience just to see the Church alive with young people filling the streets. One of the most powerful parts for me was hearing the great talks on offer for English speaking pilgrims at the Love and Life Centre.. which encouraged me in my own faith and in my own pursuit of holiness. But what was also great was to hear the words of the Holy Father, encouraging us in perserverance. His words seemed very intentional and thoughtful .. You could tell he had a true care and a true love for the youth."

Magdalen, from China:"One thing that's really important for the purpose of the WYD is that the Church has intended to implant the young people with the vision and the responsibility for the new evangelisation, which is exactly what our society needs right now. …Being part of acknowledging the larger purpose of the Church really is something I keep very close to my heart and it's important that we carry this mission we were given back to where we live. And meanwhile, as the WYD has already shown us, we must walk hand in hand with the learning of the Church, the catechesis, and also with prayer."

Joe, who's 22 & from England: "One of the bishops in his talksummed it up very well: "When you go back, people will be saying to you 'Ah, so you've come back to reality!' And he said, 'No. That's not correct. This is the reality. This is what life should be like and what God intended us for.'" .. When you're here, you're just surrounded by friends everywhere, everyone who is there for that reason, you can trust. It is amazing, it is an unbelievable experience .. you're all so happy and peaceful with each other. So for me, this is a high point in my life, something to strive for, that I want to mimick every day. .. So to sum up, World Youth Day is a vision of heaven in a way."

Papa Bento XVI: "Meus queridos amigos, convido cada um e cada uma de vós a estabelecer um diálogo pessoal com Cristo, expondo-Lhe as próprias dúvidas e sobretudo escutando-O. O Senhor está aqui e chama-te! Jovens amigos, vale a pena ouvir dentro de nós a Palavra de Jesus e caminhar seguindo os seus passos. Pedi ao Senhor que vos ajude a descobrir a vossa vocação na vida e na Igreja, e a perseverar nela com alegria e fidelidade, sabendo que Ele nunca vos abandona nem atraiçoa! Ele está connosco até ao fim do mundo."

with Matt, Maria, Rosio & Jordi       

Matt, who's 20 & from Wales: "However well formed we are, we can often feel alone if there's no-one around us, so to see that at WYD was for me the best thing I think."

Maria (19) & Rosio (20), cousins from Madrid who were volunteers at JMJ 2011:"The adoration on Saturday night when 2 million young people came to adoration. You looked backwards and saw all these people kneeling down. It was amazing because sometimes we forget that the centre of World Youth Day is to turn our heads and our hearts to Jesus Christ and so it was amazing to see 2 million young people worshipping God there, present in the Eucharist. I think that was the most impressive moment of JMJ. And also seeing that against all the weather conditions, people were still there, worshipping God and singing songs and when the weather was worst, people were singing louder."

Jordi, who's 13 & from Catalonia, Spain: "Bueno pues me gustó mucho todo el ambiente que había de los jóvenes de todo el mundo, y que todo el mundo pudo ver que ni la lluvia ni nada pudo hacer que nos fuéramos de ahí, de ver al papa, y que a pesar de la lluvia y de todo lo mojado pues seguimos ahí con la esperanza de que al otro día siguiente habría la misa del papa y podríamos escuchar más la llamada de Dios."

Papa Benedicto XVI: "Queridos jóvenes, hemos vivido una aventura juntos. Firmes en la fe en Cristo habéis resistido la lluvia. Antes de marcharme, deseo daros las buenas noches a todos. Que descanséis bien. Gracias por el sacrificio que estáis haciendo y que no dudo ofreceréis generosamente al Señor. Nos vemos mañana, si Dios quiere, en la celebración eucarística. Os espero a todos. Os doy las gracias por el maravilloso ejemplo que habéis dado. Igual que esta noche, con Cristo podréis siempre afrontar las pruebas de la vida. No lo olvidéis. Gracias a todos."

with Emily, Alex & John       

Emily, who's 18 & from France: "This summer I answered the Pope's call and the experience was just exhilarating, simply, simply just mind-blowing.  Meeting so many young people, making new friends and all sharing the same faith is just a great experience. I think for anybody it's a great way to either discover faith, reinforce it or rediscover it."

Alex, who's 21 & from England: "I was completely amazed by the whole experience: the crowds were humongous and every nationality under the sun." 

John, who's 19 & from Wales: "The highlight for me, as well as seeing the Pope which was great, was the vigil leading a Holy Hour of praise and worship from 2-3 am in an open tent. So there was Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, above us was just the moon and the stars, it was wonderful, just wonderful."

Pape Benoît XVI: "Chers jeunes francophones, soyez fiers d’avoir reçu le don de la foi, c’est elle qui illuminera votre vie à chaque instant. Appuyez-vous sur la foi de vos proches, sur la foi de l’Église! Par la foi, nous sommes fondés dans le Christ. Retrouvez-vous avec d’autres pour l’approfondir, fréquentez l’Eucharistie, mystère de la foi par excellence. Le Christ seul peut répondre aux aspirations que vous portez en vous. Laissez-vous saisir par Dieu pour que votre présence dans l’Église lui donne un élan nouveau!"

with Benjamin, Bunty & Chilekwa       

Benjamin, who's 18 & from London: "The best experience is sharing the faith with so many other people from across all corners of the world. It's the best thing ever and seeing so many other young Catholics, strong in the faith and all having a joyful time altogether."

Bunty, who's 20 & from England: "Seeing millions of pilgrims on our walk, they're all young, like my age, seeing how much they love God was such a boost for my own faith. I didn't realise how much it would effect me and how much it would move my heart to see the sheer amount of love of God and representation from all over the world, you see the Church come into its own almost, it just lights you up inside."

Chilekwa, who's from Zambia: "My experience has been overwhelming and it has been very amazing. I've learnt so much, I've seen my weakness, I've seen my strength.  Just coming here has made me even closer to Christ and having the Pope around has been really amazing."

Pope Benedict XVI: "Dear young people, in these moments of silence before the Blessed Sacrament, let us raise our minds and hearts to Jesus Christ, the Lord of our lives and of the future. May he pour out his Spirit upon us and upon the whole Church, that we may be a beacon of freedom, reconciliation and peace for the whole world."

Message for 26th WYD by Benedict XVI      
“Planted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith”

As the Successor of the Apostle Peter, I too want to confirm you in the faith. We firmly believe that Jesus Christ offered himself on the Cross in order to give us his love. In his passion, he bore our sufferings, took upon himself our sins, obtained forgiveness for us and reconciled us with God the Father, opening for us the way to eternal life. Thus we were freed from the thing that most encumbers our lives: the slavery of sin. We can love everyone, even our enemies, and we can share this love with the poorest of our brothers and sisters and all those in difficulty.

Dear friends, the Cross often frightens us because it seems to be a denial of life. In fact, the opposite is true! It is God’s “yes” to mankind, the supreme expression of his love and the source from which eternal life flows. Indeed, it is from Jesus’ heart, pierced on the Cross, that this divine life streamed forth, ever accessible to those who raise their eyes towards the Crucified One. I can only urge you, then, to embrace the Cross of Jesus, the sign of God’s love, as the source of new life. Apart from Jesus Christ risen from the dead, there can be no salvation! He alone can free the world from evil and bring about the growth of the Kingdom of justice, peace and love to which we all aspire.

On 22 October 1978, the new Pope John Paul II said to the young people in St Peter's square:
"You are the hope of the Church and of the world. You are my hope."

Blessed John Paul II repeated these words many times, both at the gatherings of young people on his pilgrim journeys and in particular at World Youth Days, which had their beginnings in 1984 when JPII held an International Youth Meeting in St Peter's Square on Palm Sunday, and a week later on Easter Sunday entrusted young people with the Cross. This simple wooden Cross has been carried round the world by young people since. 1985 was declared an "International Year for Youth" by the UN; John Paul II wrote his Apostolic Letter Dilecti Amici to the youth of the world and in December announced the institution of World Youth Day.

WYD/JMJ has been celebrated on Palm Sunday every year since on a diocesan level. There've also been 11 international World Youth Days - in Buenos Aires, Santiago de Compostela, Czestochowa, Denver, Manila, Paris, Rome, & Toronto with Blessed JPII, and Cologne, Sydney & Madrid this August with Papa Benedetto. The next WYD/JMJ will be in Rio de Janiero, Brazil, in 2013.