Europe prepares for 2011 World Youth Day

Thousands of young faith travelers tour religious sites on the continent and converge in Madrid this August.

It’s been three years since Cass Hodges attended World Youth Day in Australia, along with 400,000 other young people from around the globe. 

“I was 17 then – and was at a significant turning point in my life,” says Hodges, now an Oregon university student. “The event solidified my faith, and gave me direction as I move into adulthood and prepare for my life’s work.” I would encourage any young person of faith to attend this year – they will never forget the experience.” 

Founded in 1984 by Pope John Paul II, World Youth Day was held in Rome its first two years. Since then it has been held on the international level every two to three years at various locations.

Madrid, Spain is the 2011 location, August  16-21 and young people from almost every country on the planet are expected. The official theme is “Rooted and built up in Jesus Christ, firm in the faith.” It will be a time for attendees to grow and share their faith and be encouraged to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ in their homelands. Though it celebrates the Catholic faith, it is open to all youth, regardless of religious conviction. 

Pope Benedict will appear at final WYD Mass, and other events include outdoor musical concerts and occasions to celebrate unity of the faith among diverse cultures. 

Organizers are expecting at least 500,000 at the week-long event, but there is the potential that numbers could reach the high of five million that WYD 1995 did in Manila. 

WYD tour groups are being organized by churches, schools and travel agents.

Many groups will attend both WYD events and tour religious sites throughout Europe. 

Select International (, a full-service tour company in New Jersey with 24 years of pilgrimage organizing experience, has a roster of WYD tours ranging from a popular nine-day package from the U.S., to one for 17 days. The extended program takes participants to multiple religious sites such as shrines and monasteries in Europe, in addition to WYD activities. 

Select’s president Edita Krunic said her company has seen interest in WYD and a range of faith-based itineraries increase in recent years. 

“We began as a company that specialized in Catholic pilgrimages, but now we specialize in a broader faith-based program, because we have seen a surge among Orthodox and Protestant believers who have begun to travel in great numbers the past five years,” says Krunic. “People are turning to the church in difficult times, and they are finding some of these trips can be life altering.” 

For information on World Youth Day, visit or The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops also has information at

Ruth Hill is a business journalist and travel writer with nearly three decades of experience. Follow her at


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Ruth Hill

Ruth Hill writes for magazines and newspapers about the business and pleasures of travel. Read more about her views and news of Christian heritage travel around the world at

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