On 22 April 2009, Pope Benedict marked the 25th anniversary of the consignment of the World Youth Day cross by John Paul II to young people of the world.

World Youth Day CrossPontiff

Benedict XVI is commemorating the 25th anniversary of the day his predecessor entrusted a wooden cross, which would become the World Youth Day symbol, to young people across the globe.

Today in the general audience with pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square, the Pope recalled this event, stating, “It was, in fact, April 22, 1984, when at the end of the Holy Year of Redemption, the beloved John Paul II entrusted to the youth of the world the great cross of wood, which by his own desire was kept at the high altar of St. Peter’s Basilica during the special Jubilee Year.”

He noted that since Pope John Paul II’s gift, “the cross was accepted in the international youth center of San Lorenzo, and from there began to travel to the continents, opening the hearts of many young men and women to Christ the Redeemer.”

The Pontiff acknowledged that “its pilgrimage continues still, especially in preparation for World Youth Day.” Benedict XVI repeated this gesture, once again giving the cross to youth representatives, telling them:

“Dear friends, I entrust this cross to you again!

“Continue to carry it to every corner of the earth, so that the next generation may also discover the Mercy of God and have the hope in Christ crucified and risen renewed in their hearts!”

Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, one of the groups that organize these youth events, was present during the handing over of the cross. The cardinal acknowledged that the history of this cross is a “true miracle of grace.” He stated that “all are surprised at how this simple and poor cross is capable of giving a spiritual force so great that it gathers thousands of young people in all places.”

Journey

After the audience, about 130 young people, mostly from Poland, walked from St. Peter’s Square with the Cross and the Icon of Mary to the nearby San Lorenzo Center.

Later, the youth carried the cross through a few blocks of the historic center of Rome, starting from the Castillo de San Angel and ending at the Piazza Navona.

Leen den Blauwen, a Belgian youth who works at the San Lorenzo center, told ZENIT: “On the road we found a girl who told us that she was not very religious. Later she came closer to us to pray for the victims of the earthquake in Abruzzo. This is truly putting the suffering of the world before the cross.”

The celebration the 25 years of the cross ended in the afternoon with Eucharistic adoration at the youth center, followed by a Mass celebrated by Father Eric Jacquinet, who heads the youth section of the Pontifical Council for the Laity.

In the coming days, the cross will go to Poland, and will then be transferred to Spain in preparation for the World Youth Day planned for August of 2011 in Madrid.

When Pope John Paul II gave the cross to the youth, he told them to bring the cross to the world “as a sign of the love of the Lord Jesus for humanity, and to announce to all that there is salvation and redemption only in Christ who died and is risen.”