At tomorrow’s weekly general audience, Pope Benedict XVI will recall the 25th anniversary of the handing over of the World Youth Day cross by John Paul II to the young people of the world. In commemoration, the Holy Father will again entrust the cross to the youth as it travels to Spain to prepare for the next World Youth Day.
During the Holy Year of Redemption (1983-1984), John Paul II ordered a simple wooden cross be erected next to the altar in St. Peter's Basilica. At the close of the Holy Year, exactly 25 years ago, he entrusted that same cross to the youth of the world, saying: "Take this into the world as a sign of the Lord Jesus' love for humankind, and tell everyone that only through Christ, Who died and rose again, comes salvation and redemption."
“The invitation was taken literally by the young people of the San Lorenzo International Youth Centre,” the Vatican said in a press release. Since then, the cross has traveled across the globe, visiting every WYD country and also “carrying a sign of hope also to other places such as the continent of Africa, where it was welcomed with great devotion by thousands of young people."
Since 2003 the cross has been carried along with the Marian icon “Salus Popli Romani’ “as a sign of Mary’s maternal protection.”
Tomorrow, Pope Benedict will again entrust the cross to the youth of the San Lorenzo Centre, in the presence of Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, the Vatican dicastery responsible for organizing World Youth Days.
Following the Pope’s general audience, the cross and the icon of Mary will be part of a procession to the San Lorenzo Centre, pausing in St. Peter's Square so those present can venerate them. That afternoon the procession will pass through the historic center of Rome as far as Piazza Navona. The celebration of the anniversary will conclude at 5 p.m. at the San Lorenzo Centre with an hour of adoration, followed by Mass.
The cross, known as the "WYD Cross," will then leave for a brief pilgrimage through Poland before moving on to Spain, where it will be taken through all the dioceses of the country in preparation for the 26th World Youth Day, scheduled to be held in Madrid August 2011.