World Youth Day FAQs

What is World Youth Day? 

After two successful international gatherings with young people in Rome in 1984 and 1985, St. John Paul II instituted the annual observance of World Youth Day in December 1985 as an annual gathering of youth and young adults for prayer, worship, and celebration of the Catholic faith.  He told the College of Cardinals that year, "…the whole Church, in union with the Successor of Peter, must be more and more committed, globally, to youth and young adults – and to their anxieties and concerns and to their openness, hopes, and expectations…"

From that day forward, World Youth Day was celebrated each year by the global Church (during every Palm Sunday liturgy in Rome since 1984) and locally in many dioceses around the world. Every two or three years, an international gathering is held to bring all the youth and young adults together in one place with the Holy Father. After the first two gatherings in Rome (in 1984 and 1985), the subsequent international gatherings have taken place in Buenos Aires, Argentina (1987); Santiago de Compostela, Spain (1989); Czestochowa, Poland (1991); Denver, U.S.A. (1993); Manila, Philippines (1995); Paris, France (1997); Rome, Italy, for the Millennium Jubilee (2000); Toronto, Canada (2002); Cologne, Germany (2005); Sydney, Australia (2008); Madrid, Spain (2011); Rio de Janiero, Brazil (2013); Krakow, Poland (2016); and forthcoming in Panama City, Panama (2019).

While many nations of the world celebrate young people annually on Palm Sunday and the Feast of Christ the King, the United States has chosen to observe National Youth Sunday the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, which is typically in late October. 

What is the purpose of World Youth Day?

Both international and domestic World Youth Day celebrations are important for three reasons: first, celebrating and putting trust in the young; second, making pilgrimage; and third, encountering the Catholic community.

Reason #1: Celebrating and Putting Trust in the Young

Youth and young adults are not only the future of the Church but are active participants in the Catholic Church today. World Youth Day helps to prepare these young men and women to bring about Christ's mission in the world and to equip them to be missionary disciples. World Youth Day brings together young people from the four corners of the earth, where the Holy Father is able to entrust the Church and its mission to younger generations. World Youth Day is not simply a celebratory gathering of disparate groups of youth and young adults, but a key time to call them forth on a great mission of faith. Bishop James D. Conley from Lincoln Nebraska, a World Youth Day alumnus, says:Pope John Paul II celebrated his final international World Youth Day in Toronto in 2002. (CNS file photo)

"John Paul stood among millions of young people here in the United States [at World Youth Day Denver], and told us not to be afraid.  He told us to go out into the streets and proclaim the Gospel.  He told us to defend life.  He told us to become saints.  He called us to the New Evangelization."

Reason #2: Making Pilgrimage 

Understanding that young people are on a journey, the act of going on pilgrimage is an essential component to the World Youth Day experience. From ancient times, people of faith have made great journeys – from Abraham and Moses to the Early Christians, who traveled "to the ends of the earth" (cf. Acts 1:8) to spread the Gospel. Through the centuries, pilgrims have made journeys to Jerusalem, Santiago de Compostela, Rome, and many other great sites to find God through the resting places of the saints. Youth and young adults today continue on that same trajectory – and through World Youth Day, seek God through the experience of a truly Universal Church, in solidarity with the Holy Father and millions of young people.  World Youth Day, whether celebrated locally or internationally, is a pilgrimage reflecting the road that young people continue to travel throughout their whole lives.

Reason #3: Encountering the Catholic Community

In the Twenty-First Century, technology ensures that young people are always in contact with one another. World Youth Day goes beyond "being in contact" and gives youth and young adults a personal encounter with the international Catholic community they cannot get through their phones or computers – all in service to the ultimate encounter with God. Like the disciples on Mount Tabor, World Youth Day participants have a great opportunity to experience a transformative event – and to use that moment of grace to equip themselves for the great work that awaits them in the everyday valleys of life.

Each time I have had the privilege of being present at the Vigil and Closing Mass of World Youth Day (Sydney, Madrid, and Rio), when millions of young Catholics are gathered together at the same time, I think of the scene in the Book of Revelation (see Chapter 19) in which a great multitude stands before the throne of the Lamb, singing praises forever and ever.  But the realization of this little bit of "heaven on earth" comes not just because of the vast numbers who are gathered or the enthusiasm of their praise.  It comes from having witnessed smaller ways in which young people of every nation and language interact with each other at the catechesis sites, at the prayer services, at the concerts, and on the streets.  For sure they are not dressed in the pure white garments of heaven, but they are definitely clothed in joy and love of the Lord Jesus." -- Most Reverend Larry Silva, Bishop of Honolulu, Hawaii 

What is WYDUSA?

World Youth Day USA (WYDUSA) is an umbrella term for the United States' participation in World Youth Day, both abroad at the international events and stateside in the U.S., as well as to designate those who have participated on one of those WYD activities in the past (WYDUSA "alumni"). The idea for this holistic approach is to unify all pilgrims across the country under one banner, to connect those who celebrate overseas with those who celebrate stateside, and to connect today's World Youth Day pilgrims with those who have made a pilgrimage to WYD at some point in the past thirty years.

How old do I have to be to attend World Youth Day?

World Youth Day is a pilgrimage experience targeted to those ages 16 to 35.  We especially encourage young adults in their 20s and early 30s to attend the international World Youth Day events.

How do I sign up for World Youth Day?

Registration coming soon!

What is the schedule of events for World Youth Day?

The committees from Portugal and Rome have yet to release specific details concerning the official 2022 schedule; however, below is the general events list that World Youth Day generally follows:

General Events:

  • World Youth Day Opening Mass
  • Morning Catechesis and Mass
  • Youth Festival (concerts, talks, exhibits, and music at select locations)
  • Papal Welcome Ceremony
  • Way of the Cross
  • Evening Candlelight Vigil with Pope Francis
  • Morning Papal Mass

Preceding the central WYD activities, "Days in the Dioceses" will take place in dioceses in Portugal. More information to come!

Pilgrims with simple accommodations are expected to be lodged nearby their catechetical site in parishes, schools, dorms, gyms, or tents at varying distances from the city center (NOTE: the sooner the group registers, the closer they will be to the city).

How will pilgrims travel to the closing site?

The organizing committees have yet to make official announcements regarding a specific location for the closing site. Please check back in for updates.

What sort of lodging and accommodations will be made available for pilgrims?

Simple accommodations will be available for pilgrims in homes, tents, schools, gyms, etc. in areas north, south, east, and west of the city center. Pilgrims can also choose an option to register without simple accommodations, in which they or a group leader would be responsible for booking accommodations.

How do I pack? What should I bring?

Try to pack as lightly as possible, only bring the essentials. Here is a video from WYD 2011 that should give first-time pilgrims for any World Youth Day an idea of How To Pack for WYD.

World Youth Day pilgrims outside a metro stop in near Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)


Still have questions?
Contact the WYDUSA office!
Phone: (202) 541-3044