WYD 101

WYD Symbols

The symbols are a reminder of World Youth Day’s purpose: to know Jesus deeper through his Passion, and to abandon one’s life to the protection of Our Lady.

Every WYD, two symbols travel from host country to host country. 

The World Youth Day Cross, and the icon of the Mother of God, both make a pilgrimage around the host country, as they prepare to welcome pilgrims from all corners of the world. 

They can be expected to be found on the Main Events site for all to see, as symbols to remind young people of the purpose of WYD. Pope JP II entrusted them to young people, so that they may personally experience an encounter with Jesus and his mother, and accordingly be living witnesses of the transforming love of Christ as they go back to their family, friends, and community.

The Cross

The cross was first made in 1983 to celebrate the beginning of the Holy Year of Jubilee of the Redemption. After the youth asked Pope JP II to give it to them at the end of the Holy Year, he listened, and entrusted it to them on Easter Sunday, a time which also coincided with the start of WYD. 

The Icon of the Mother of God

The icon of the Mother of God, known as Salus Populi Romani, which means Protectress of the Roman people, is an icon that is renowned for its graces.  

In 590 CE, Her image was carried to save the inhabitants of Rome from an epidemic; the plague miraculously ceased shortly after Pope Gregory saw an angel sheathing his punitive sword in the sky. 

The icon was present during the vigil and the final mass at WYD Rome in 2000. 

Three years later, Pope John Paul II entrusted a copy of the icon to travel around the world together with the Cross. He had an important message for all the youth, urging them to get closer to Jesus through his mother Mary, “Mary was given to you to help you enter into a more authentic and more personal relationship with Jesus. Through her example, Mary teaches you to gaze on him with love, for He has loved us first.” Thus, he passed on to the youth his testament: the latin phrase “Totus Tuus”, or “all yours”, which signifies the desire to give oneself entirely to Jesus through Mary. 


WYD is a worldwide encounter which brings all Catholics together to celebrate their faith. Though we may speak different languages, come from all places, and various walks of life, the Cross and the Icon are universal symbols which help remind us that we are part of the same family in Christ. Indeed, through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, and the gift of his Blessed Mother, who unceasingly intercedes on behalf of her children like you and me, we have become one body, one spirit in Christ.