According to many, the WYD is Pope John Paul II’s most beautiful invention. He, on the contrary, said: “The young people are the ones who invented the WYD.” But let's see how this wonderful adventure began. In 1983-1984, the Year of Redemption was celebrated: 1,950 years after the Passion of Jesus. Among the various activities of the Jubilee Year, John Paul II wanted to organize a gathering for youth on the Palm Sunday. The organizing committee expected 60,000 participants. 250,000 came. In 1985, the UN proclaimed an International Year of Youth. The Pope, wishing to manifest the Church's attention to the new generations, again invited youth to Rome for Palm Sunday. This time too, the answer was great: 300,000 young people went to the churches throughout the city for moments of prayer and catechesis, and then they gathered in St. Peter's Square to attend the celebration with the Holy Father.
After these two gatherings, many were wondering what caused such a great response, what young people were searching for and what they wanted? Yet, John Paul II had had this intuition: young people felt the desire to meet, to share their experience, listen to a word of faith, look to the future and renew and confirm their commitment. And so, at the end of 1985, he announced the institution of the World Youth Day, to be celebrated each year in the dioceses. The Pope also indicated a date for the celebration: Palm Sunday. Why? “The response is given by all of you who have been coming to Rome on pilgrimage for many years precisely to celebrate this day [...]. Does this not mean perhaps that you yourselves are searching for Christ at the heart of his mystery? You are seeking it in the fullness of the truth which is Christ himself in the history of humankind,” explained John Paul II (Homily on 27 March 1988, Palm Sunday Mass, 3rd World Youth Day).
There were international gatherings as well as diocesan celebrations. At first, these gatherings took place every two years. The first WYD was held in the dioceses in 1986, and the first international gathering was held in 1987 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, with a strong message for a country that was just emerging from dictatorship.