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VATICAN CITY — This morning, at the end of the Palm Sunday liturgy in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis told young people to “go forward with courage” in inviting peers and leaders to “cultivate resolutions of peace, reconciliation and brotherhood.”
Addressing faithful and pilgrims before praying the Angelus, as the Church marks the 31st World Youth Day, Pope Francis noted that today’s celebration will culminate at the end of July “in the great world meeting in Krakow.”
The theme of this year’s World Youth Day is “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy” (Matt. 5:7).
The Holy Father said: “My special greetings go to the young people here present and extend to all the youth of the world. I hope you will be able to come in great numbers to Krakow, the homeland of St. John Paul II, founder of the World Youth Days. Let us entrust to his intercession the final months of preparation for this pilgrimage which, in the context of the Holy Year of Mercy, will be the Jubilee for young people at the level of the universal Church.”
John Paul II officially announced the establishment of World Youth Day in his address to the College of Cardinals and the Roman Curia on December 20, 1985. Recalling his international meeting with young people in Rome, on the eve of Palm Sunday, March 30, 1985, Pope John Paul II told cardinals and curial officials: “The Lord blessed that meeting in an extraordinary way to the extent that a World Youth Day was established for forthcoming years to be celebrated on Palm Sunday.”
Ten years later, the 1995 World Youth Day closing Mass in the Philippines, with 5 million attendees, set a world record for the largest number of people gathered for a single religious event. This record was surpassed 20 years later when 6 million people attended a pontifical Mass celebrated by Pope Francis in the Philippines in 2015.
Pope St. John Paul II and Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta (to be canonized this September 4) are the patron saints of World Youth Day.
Palm Sunday is a fitting feast for the World Youth Day, when young people come together to encounter Jesus Christ. As we hear in one of the antiphons sung as olive or palm branches are blessed and carried in solemn procession: Hebrew children bearing olive branches went forth to meet the Lord, crying out and saying: Hosanna in the highest.
Here below we publish Pope Francis’ words before praying the Angelus.
[Dear brothers and sisters,]
I greet all of you who have participated in this celebration, and all those joining us via television, radio and other media.
Today we celebrate the 31st World Youth Day, which will culminate at the end of July in the great world meeting in Krakow. The theme is “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy” (Matt. 5:7). My special greetings go to the young people here present, and extend to all the youth of the world. I hope many of you will be able to come to Krakow, the homeland of St. John Paul II, founder of the World Youth Days. Let us entrust to his intercession the final months of preparation for this pilgrimage which, in the context of the Holy Year of Mercy, will be the Jubilee for young people at the level of the universal Church.
There are many young volunteers from Krakow here with us. As they return to Poland, they will carry to the nation’s leaders olive branches that were gathered from Jerusalem, Assisi and Monte Cassino, and blessed today in this square, as an invitation to cultivate resolutions of peace, reconciliation and brotherhood. Thank you for this beautiful initiative. Go forward with courage!
And now let us pray to the Virgin Mary, that she might help us to live this Holy Week with spiritual intensity.