According to, “John Paul II began WYD in 1985. Among the various celebrations dedicated to youth during the Jubilee of 1983-1984, called the ‘Holy Year of Redemption’ in memory of the death of Jesus Christ 1,950 years earlier, the most important took place at the Palm Sunday Vigil in Rome. More than 300,000 young people from all over the world participated in the International Youth Jubilee, where the Pope presented them with a wooden cross.

“When the U.N. declared 1985 the International Year of Youth, the Catholic Church organized another international event on Palm Sunday, March 31, which gathered 350,000 youth together in St. Peter’s Square. Following this event, the Pope instituted World Youth Day with annual cadence. Therefore, WYD was a desire and initiative of John Paul II. The event was incredibly well received, as evidenced by the massive number of youth who flocked to Rome for the international gatherings in 1984 and 1985.”

In terms of attendance, the website lists: Buenos Aires (1987), 1 million; Santiago de Compostela (1989), more than 500,000; Czestochowa (1991), 1.6 million; Denver (1993), 600,000; Manila (1995), approximately 4 million; Paris (1997), 1.2 million; Rome (2000 Jubilee), 2 million; Toronto (2002), 800,000; Cologne (2005), 1.1 million; and Sydney (2008), 400,000.

This year’s attendance is expected to be more than 1 million.

Godspeed, World Youth Day-ers!