At the end of the Holy Year in 1984, the Holy Father, Pope Saint John Paul II, invited young people from the movements and associations throughout the world to be present in Rome for the concluding ceremony. At this time, Pope Saint John Paul II gave to these young people the Cross of the Holy Year as a remembrance of their redemption.

The following year, 1985, the Holy Father again invited young people to Rome on Palm Sunday for the observance of the United Nations (U.N.) International Year of Youth. Thus, the celebrations of World Youth Day were initiated.

The Holy Father’s meetings with young people and special letters to them have continued beyond the U.N. observance and have become a yearly celebration. Since 1985, Pope Saint John Paul II issued a letter addressed to the youth of the world to meet with him at one location for catechesis, fellowship, worship, and renewal.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Pope Francis have continued what Pope Saint John Paul II started, celebrating World Youth Days with young people all over the world.