Pope Francis offered Mass for the Feast of Christ the King on Sunday, and afterward oversaw the traditional passing of the World Youth Day cross and Marian icon to a delegation from Portugal.
At the end of Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica Nov. 22, the World Youth Day cross and icon of Mary Salus Populi Romani were handed over to a group of young people from Portugal by young people from Panama.
The event took place ahead of the 16th international World Youth Day, to be held in Lisbon, Portugal in August 2023. The last international youth gathering took place in Panama in January 2019.
“This is an important step in the pilgrimage that will lead us to Lisbon in 2023,” Pope Francis said.
The simple wooden cross was given to youth by St. Pope John Paul II in 1984, at the end of the Holy Year of Redemption.
He told young people to “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.”
Over the past 36 years, the cross has traveled around the world, carried by young people on pilgrimages and processions, as well as to every international World Youth Day.
The 12 and a half foot tall cross is known by different names, including the Youth Cross, Jubilee Cross, and Pilgrim Cross.
The cross and icon are usually given to young people from the country hosting the next World Youth Day on Palm Sunday, which is also Diocesan Youth Day, but due to the coronavirus pandemic, the exchange was postponed to the Feast of Christ the King.
Pope Francis also announced Nov. 22 that he had decided to move the annual diocesan-level youth day celebration from Palm Sunday to Christ the King Sunday, beginning next year.
“The center of the celebration remains the Mystery of Jesus Christ the Redeemer of Man, as Saint John Paul II, the initiator and patron of WYD, always emphasized,” he said.
In October, World Youth Day Lisbon launched its website and unveiled its logo.
The design, which features the Blessed Virgin Mary in front of a cross, was created by Beatriz Roque Antunes, a 24-year-old who works at a communication agency in Lisbon.
The Marian logo was designed to communicate the World Youth Day theme selected by Pope Francis: “Mary arose and went with haste,” from St. Luke’s account of the Virgin Mary’s visitation to her cousin Elizabeth after the Annunciation.
In his homily at Mass Nov. 22, Pope Francis encouraged young people to do big things for God, to embrace the Corporal Works of Mercy, and to make wise choices.
“Dear young people, dear brothers and sisters, let us not give up on great dreams,” he said. “Let us not settle only for what is necessary. The Lord does not want us to narrow our horizons or to remain parked on the roadside of life. He wants us to race boldly and joyfully towards lofty goals.”
He said: “We were not created to dream about vacations or the weekend, but to make God’s dreams come true in this world.”
“God made us capable of dreaming, so that we could embrace the beauty of life,” Francis continued. “The works of mercy are the most beautiful works in life. If you are dreaming about real glory, not the glory of this passing world but the glory of God, this is the path to follow. For the works of mercy give glory to God more than anything else.”
“If we choose God, daily we grow in his love, and if we choose to love others, we find true happiness. Because the beauty of our choices depends on love,” he said.