World Youth Day gathers hundreds of thousands of young Catholics from all over the world and it is an event filled with music. Each has a phrase from the Bible that is included in the official hymn.
Pope St. John Paul II's last World Youth Day was held in Canada in 2002. It took place shortly after the September 11 attacks in New York City. This tragedy strongly influenced the tone of the event. In fact, the official hymn called young people to be the 'light of the world,' especially in difficult times.
Three years later in 2005, Pope Benedict XVI presided over his first World Youth Day in his native Germany. One of his initiatives was to encourage young Catholics to include a time of Eucharistic adoration in their lives. And the hymn for this occasion emphasized the Pope's challenge to focus on the Blessed Sacrament.
During World Youth Day Madrid in 2011, a thunderstorm did not keep two million pilgrims from gathering to listen to Pope Benedict XVI. And he thanked them for their endurance, which echoed the official hymn entitled, 'Firm in the Faith.' This was Pope Benedict XVI's last World Youth Day.
One and a half million young people made the pilgrimage to Krakow, Poland in 2016. This was a very special World Youth Day because St. John Paul II was its patron. This year's hymn was a reminder of the end of the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
The first World Youth Day celebrated in Central America took place in Panama in 2019. This international pilgrimage had a strong Marian devotion as the young people sang a hymn honoring Our Lady of Fatima.
Hundreds of thousands of young people are preparing for World Youth Day 2023 in Lisbon. There, they will reflect on Mary's 'yes' to immediately visit her cousin, St. Elizabeth. And the official hymn, 'There's Haste in the Air,' comes as a call to action for young Catholics today.