World Youth Day Cross and Icon Traveling to the Saint John Paul II National Shrine
The Saint John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, DC will host the official World Youth Day Cross and Icon on Saturday, August 25, 2018 as part of the international procession in advance of the World Youth Day event in Panama this coming January. The shrine is only one of five venues in the continental United States that has been selected for this honor. This occasion marks only the third time the cross has made an official visit to the United States in 25 years (World Youth Day – Denver in 1993 and a two-day stop at New York City’s Ground Zero five months after the September 11th attacks in preparation for World Youth Day – Toronto in 2002).
The World Youth Day Cross was gifted to young adults on April 22, 1984 by Pope Saint John Paul II with a commission to “carry it throughout the world as a symbol of Christ’s love for humanity.” On Palm Sunday 2003, the pope instructed that the Salus Populi Romani icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary accompany the cross on its processions.
As part of this mission, the shrine will lead a procession of the cross and icon to various Washington, DC landmarks before bringing it to the Shrine for veneration. These locations include the Lincoln Memorial, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, and the National Mall in front of the Smithsonian Institution Building (The Castle) where Pope Saint John Paul II celebrated Mass on October 7, 1979 during his first pastoral visit to the United States.
The Saint John Paul II National Shrine was invited by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) to host the cross and icon because of the shrine’s devotion to Pope Saint John Paul II who initiated these two items as the official symbols of the World Youth Day gatherings.
“Saint John Paul II enlivened the teachings of Jesus Christ within young people,” said Dr. Maxime Nogier, the shrine’s deputy director. “Being selected to host the cross and icon ahead of World Youth Day Panama 2019 is a great privilege – perhaps the only chance for many to see these symbols. This rare opportunity will draw young people closer to Christ as they deepen their understanding of our great patron’s teachings and pray in solidarity with Catholics around the world.”
The cross will travel from Chicago, Miami, and Houston to Washington, DC before departing to Los Angeles and then to Panama in the lead-up to the international gathering in January 2019. Additional details about the cross and icon’s journey, coordinated by the USCCB, will be featured as they become available on both on the shrine’s website, jp2shrine.org/wydcross, and social media channels (@jp2shrine) as well as on the USCCB’s World Youth Day website.
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