Toronto, Canada (2002)

Date: 23-28 July 2002

Pontificate: John Paul II

Theme: “You are the salt of the earth; you are the light of the world” (Matthew 5: 13,14)  

Song: Light of the World, Lumière du Monde

In his message, the pope used a comparison between salt and baptism. Just as salt seasons and gives flavour to food, “through Baptism, our whole being has been profoundly changed because it has been ‘seasoned’ with the new life which comes from Christ (cf. Romans 6:4)”. Salt is used for seasoning and also for preserving food. Our baptism is like this. It gives identity to Christians, and this is consolidated over time as people grow in understanding and in their response to God’s call. The pope invited young people to explore the history of the Church and the Christian roots of civilisation. They should allow themselves to be inspired by witnesses of faith as they look to a life of apostolate to which every Christian is called. Light also has a powerful evocative power that can be connected to everyday life and the history of all humanity. The pope referred to humanity’s fear of the darkness of night and our anxious wait for morning light. He then repeated a symbolic image of WYD youth that he first used in Rome 2000. He called them “sentinels of dawn” – those who proclaim the coming of the sun which is the risen Christ. Holiness is the perspective that John Paul II proposed to young people, because “holiness gives full meaning to life, making it a reflection of the glory of God”.

All of the Holy Father’s speeches at WYD in Toronto:

Summary based on the data sheet published by, organ of the Diocese of Rieti.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (2013)

Date: 23-28 July 2013

Pontificate: Pope Francis

Theme: “Go and make disciples of all nations!” (cf. Matthew 28:19)

Song: Esperança do Amanhecer (Hope at dawn)

WYD 2013 provided an occasion for the world to get to know Pope Francis, the new head of the Catholic Church. He immediately emphasised the availability and welcome that Jesus reserves for everyone, as long as their heart is open and willing. A life defined by love, patience and expectation is the key to building a different and better society, the kind called for by Pope Paul VI at the close of the Vatican Council. The message was written by Pope Benedict XVI, and he quoted from Pope Paul VI’s message to young people in 1965 when closing the Council. “… it is you who are to receive the torch from the hands of your elders (…). It is you who, taking up the best of the example and the teaching of your parents and your teachers, will shape the society of tomorrow. You will either be saved or perish with it.” The invitation is therefore to build a better society, capable of giving due and limited weight to materialism and recognising the absolute value of love, the only way on which to build union between people, for “the salvation of humanity depends on this, as well as the salvation of each of us”. He concludes by saying, “never forget that the first act of love that you can do for others is to share the source of our hope (…) do not be afraid to suggest an encounter with Christ to people of your own age. Ask the Holy Spirit for help. The Spirit will show you the way to know and love Christ even more fully, and to be creative in spreading the Gospel.” During the vigil, Pope Francis encouraged the young people there by saying, “Dear young people, please, do not be observers of life, but get involved. Immerse yourselves in the reality of life, as Jesus did”.

All of the Holy Father’s speeches at WYD in Rio de Janeiro:

Summary based on the data sheet published by, organ of the Diocese of Rieti.

Krakow, Poland (2016)

Date: 27-31 July 2016

Pontificate: Pope Francis

Theme: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7)

Song: ogosławieni miłosierni (mercy and forgiveness)

“Dear young people, at last we are together!” These are the first words that Pope Francis addressed to the 700,000 young people of WYD, in the Blonia esplanade in Krakow, as he thanked them for “this warm welcome”. He paid tribute to St John Paul II, “in the land of his birth”, “who first came up with the idea of these meetings and gave them such momentum. From his place in heaven, he is with us and he sees all of you: so many young people from such a variety of nations, cultures and languages but with one aim, that of celebrating Jesus who is living in our midst.” In one of the key passages, Pope Francis focused on the strength of young people who challenge those who do not want change. “I ask you, and you respond: can things change? [Yes!] I cannot hear you! [Yes!] That’s good.”
More than a million and a half young people from all over the world and the Polish faithful took part in the Vigil and the Closing Mass of WYD on the large esplanade of Wieliczka.
The pope opened the Saturday Vigil by quoting the words of a Syrian boy, Rand, who had attended WYD and asked for prayers for his country. “We have no desire to conquer hatred with more hatred, violence with more violence, terror with more terror. (…)  Our response to a world at war has a name: its name is fellowship, its name is communion, its name is family.”
In the homily of the Mass, the pope sent young people out into the world as disciples and witnesses of God’s mercy, strengthened by this experience and with the Gospel of Jesus as their “navigator” on the roads of life. “People may call you dreamers … but don’t be discouraged”. During this WYD, Pope Francis urged young people not to be “couch potatoes” but to be ready in their “walking shoes”. “God’s memory is not a ‘hard disk’ that ‘saves’ and ‘archives’ all our data. It is a heart filled with tender compassion that finds joy in ‘erasing’ all our faults.”

All of the Holy Father’s speeches at WYD in Krakow:

Summary based on the data sheet published by, organ of the Diocese of Rieti.

Panama City, Panama (2019)

Date: 23-28 January 2019

Pontificate: Pope Francis

Theme: “I am the servant of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38)   

Song: Hágase en mí, según tu palabra (May it be done to me according to your word)

“You, dear young people, are not just the future. … You young people are the present moment, the now of God.” This is what the pope told them in his homily at the concluding Mass of WYD in Panama. There were over 700,000 young people there.  They were told to “speak out and fulfil the dream that the Lord has dreamed for you.” Pope Francis emphasised the relationship between the present and the future. In his address to the young people, he warned them not to “think that your mission, your vocation, even your life itself, is a promise far off in the future, having nothing to do with the present. As if being young were a kind of waiting room, where we sit around until we are called. In the meantime, we adults or you yourselves invent a hygienically sealed future, without consequences, where everything is safe, secure and well insured.” The pope regarded this as “make-believe” happiness. Young people were being numbed into keeping quiet and not being a nuisance and asking too many questions, “and in that ‘meantime’ your dreams lose their buoyancy, they seem to move slowly, and they begin to become flat and dreary, petty and plaintive. This is only because we think, or you think, that your ‘now’ has not yet come, that you are too young to be involved in dreaming about and working for the future.”

The pope said that this cannot and must not be the case. “One of the fruits of the last Synod was the enrichment that came from being able to meet and above all to listen to one another. The enrichment of intergenerational dialogue, the enrichment of exchange and the value of realising that we need one another, that we have to work to create channels and spaces that encourage dreaming of and working for tomorrow, starting today.”
This is also how WYD should be experienced. “In a special way throughout these days, Mary’s fiat has been whispering like a kind of music in the background. She not only believed in God and in God’s promises as something possible, she believed God and dared to say ‘yes’ to taking part in this ‘present moment’ of the Lord.
Finally the Pope asked the question: “Dear young friends, do you want to live out your love in a practical way? May your ‘yes’ continue to be the gateway for the Holy Spirit to give us a new Pentecost for the Church and for the world.”

All of the Holy Father’s speeches at WYD in Panama:

Summary based on the data sheet published by, organ of the Diocese of Rieti.