World Youth Day symbols go from Panama to Portugal

30 November 2020
Portuguese representatives with the World Youth Day Cross and Icon following Mass at St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican. Image: Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life/Flickr


A new stage in the pilgrimage of the World Youth Day symbols began on Sunday 22 November—symbols which will visit Portugal and other Portuguese-speaking countries as part of the spiritual preparation for World Youth Day in Lisbon in 2023. The traditional handing on of the Cross, along with a copy of the icon Maria Salus Populi Romani (the two symbols of WYD) took place in the presence of the Holy Father at the end of Mass on the Solemnity of Christ the King.

“This is an important step in the pilgrimage that will lead us to Lisbon in 2023,” said Pope Francis during the ceremony.

Leading the preparation for the next World Youth Day, two small delegations of Central American and Portuguese youth were present at the Eucharistic celebration. They were joined by the patriarch of Lisbon, Cardinal Manuel Clemente; and two auxiliary bishops of Lisbon, Bishop Americo Aguiar and Bishop Joaquim Mendes.

Through the live coverage of Vatican News, young people from all over the world were able to participate spiritually in the Mass; along with youth ministry leaders of episcopal conferences and international ecclesial movements, who from Wednesday through Saturday met “virtually” during the international online meeting organised by our Dicastery: “From Panama to Lisbon—called to missionary synodality.”

During the homily of the mass, the Pope also invited young people not to give up on their big dreams. “Let’s not settle for what is merely required. The Lord does not want us to narrow our horizons, He does not want us parked on the sidelines of life, but rather running towards high goals with joy and audacity. We are not made to dream of vacations or weekends, but we are made to fulfil God’s dreams in this world,” said the Pope, reminding young people that great dreams have their origins in the great choices of daily life: “Banal choices lead to a banal life, great choices make life great. In fact, we become what we choose, for better or for worse. (…) If we choose God we become more beloved every day, and if we choose to love we become happy.”

The handing on of the World Youth Day symbols and the international meeting were initially scheduled for April 2020, but had been postponed due to the ongoing global health emergency.

For years, the Cross and the icon of Maria Salus Populi Romani have accompanied the preparations for the international World Youth Day gatherings.

The presentation of the symbols to the young people of the diocese which will hosts the next World Youth Day would always take place at the end of the Palm Sunday celebration presided over by the Holy Father in St. Peter’s Square.

This tradition dates back to 1984 when, at the end of the Jubilee Year of the Redemption, Pope John Paul II entrusted young people with the Jubilee Cross, known today as the WYD Cross, which has been at the centre of each international World Youth Day ever since.

In 2003, the Holy Father also offered young people a copy of the icon of Maria Salus Populi Romani, which is placed beside the Cross in its pilgrimages around the world.

Diocesan World Youth Days to be celebrated on the Solemnity of Christ the King

During the Mass, Pope Francis announced that starting in 2021, diocesan World Youth Days are to be celebrated on the Solemnity of Christ the King.

35 years after the institution of World Youth Day, the annual diocesan celebration of World Youth Day in local Churches will move from Palm Sunday to the Solemnity of Christ the King

“And as we prepare for the next intercontinental World Youth Day, I would like to relaunch its celebration in local Churches.”

With this announcement, Pope Francis reiterated the invitation to young people, who are called to be witnesses of the Christian faith: “Dear young people, cry out with your life that Christ lives and reigns! If you keep silent, the stones will cry out!” said the Pontiff.

The last World Youth Day was held in Panama in January 2019; while the next one, planned for 2023, will take place in Lisbon, Portugal.

View images from the transfer of the World Youth Day icons from the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life here or below.


With thanks to the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life.


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