Thirty years have passed since that Easter in 1984 when John Paul II made a prophetic gesture by giving the Cross of the Holy Year of the Redemption to young people. He said on that occasion: “My dear young people, at the conclusion of the Holy Year, I entrust to you the sign of this Jubilee Year: the Cross of Christ! Carry it throughout the world as a symbol of Christ's love for humanity, and proclaim to everyone that it is only in Christ, who died and rose from the dead, that salvation and redemption are to be found”. That symbolic gesture was the starting point of World Youth Day. Pope John Paul II took the brave decision to put the cross of Christ at the centre of the world day for the youth of the world. He realised that young people are searching for Jesus Christ, and that he is to be found at the heart of the paschal mystery, that is, in his death and resurrection. It is not by chance that Palm Sunday was chosen for the annual WYD celebration, the day that opens Holy Week.
On Palm Sunday this year after the Mass presided by Pope Francis, it was the turn of the Brazilian youth to hand the Cross over to young people from Poland. In July 2016, Krakow will host the world gathering of young people from all over the world with the Successor of Peter. WYD is returning to Poland after 25 years! The theme chosen by the Holy Father for this occasion is taken from the Beatitudes: "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy" (Mt 5:7). Divine mercy is an important theme in the teaching of Pope Francis. The youth who go to Krakow will be asked to discover the merciful face of God, manifested in the face of Jesus Christ, the Son of God who died and rose for us.
WYD 2016 in Krakow will also be an occasion for thanksgiving by young people from all over the world for the gift of John Paul II’s canonisation. It will be a wonderful opportunity to remind young people about that great Pope, a prime mover of epoch-changing events. They not only had a profound effect on the life of the Church, but also on the contemporary world. The Pope who founded WYD was a great friend of young people. He trusted them and knew that they were essential allies in the new evangelisation. So many young people around the world were led by him to discover Christ as “the Way, the Truth and the Life”. The event in Krakow will be a special WYD in which John Paul II will return among his young people as a Patron Saint, a Friend in heaven in whom to trust, a Friend who will continue to inspire courage and hope with his invitation to “open, open wide the doors to Christ! Do not be afraid!”.