This year the Church celebrates the 38th World Youth Day (WYD) from 1-6 August 2023 in Lisbon, Portugal, with the theme – “Mary arose and went with haste” (LK 1: 38). Immediately upon hearing the news of her cousin Elizabeth’s conception in her old age, the Blessed Virgin Mary, who herself was in the early stages of her pregnancy, arose and went “in haste” to assist Elizabeth (LK 1:39-40). Hence, the Holy Father, Pope Francis, desires our young people to arise from their sleep and wake up to live fully and experience their youthfulness fully.
Saint John Paul II initiated the World Youth Day celebration through the influence of the Youth Light-Life Movement, which existed in Poland since 1985. The first WYD was held in Rome on Palm Sunday, in 1986. Since then, the Catholic Church has celebrated World Youth Day (WYD) annually worldwide, on Palm Sunday until 2020. Since 2021, it has been celebrated on the Feast of Christ the King at Diocese levels. Once every two or three years, it is celebrated on a global level.
The 34th WYD in Panama City (2019) was the last one held at worldwide level, due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, and the next three consecutive years (2020-2022), the celebrations were held in dioceses worldwide. For these three years, the Holy Father emphasised the two verbs – “arise and stand up”, which are the keywords for their preparation for the WYD gathering in Lisbon, Portugal. This year’s gathering in Portugal will mark his fourth WYD after Poland, Brazil and Panama. Lisbon was chosen because, in the 15th and 16th centuries, the young people, including missionaries throughout Portugal, “set out for unknown lands, to share their experience of Jesus with other peoples and nations.”
“Arise and Stand Up” – come from the biblical texts for the three consecutive years’ theme for the WYD (2020-2023). For 2021, the theme was, “Young man, I say to you arise!” (Lk 7: 14), for 2021, “Stand up, I appoint you as a witness of what you have seen” (cf. Acts 26: 16) and for 2022/23, “Mary arose and went with haste,” (LK 1: 39). These verbs are the main highlight in the Holy Father’s Exhortation (2018), “Christus Vivit” (Christ is Alive!), inviting the young people to awaken and experience the new life in Christ.
The worldwide WYD celebration allows young people to connect with the Holy Father, Church leaders, and fellow youths worldwide. It is a chance to share their ideas, cultures, languages and experiences of faith. It is also an invitation to witness the living Church and how they can bring liveliness and renewal to the Catholic Church today. WYD meetings help understand the importance of Christ in personal faith journeys.
Young people must make great efforts to rise and stand up for their faith in Christ and share the Good News with those in contact with them. The Holy Spirit will accompany them, the grace of the Lord Jesus will overflow in their hearts to give them the courage to arise and stand for their faith, and the Church is always a lamp for their life path. My dear young people – you need to rise again!