It is known as the "Holy Year Cross", the "Jubilee Cross", the "WYD Cross", the "Pilgrim Cross"; many call it the "Young People´s Cross" because it has been given to young people to take across the world, to all places at all times . This is its history:
It was the year 1984, the Holy Year of the Redemption, when Pope John Paul II decided that a cross, symbol of the faith, had to be near the main altar of Saint Peter´s Basilica, where everyone could see it. So a great wooden cross was installed, 3.8 meters high, exactly as he wished.
At the end of the Holy Year, after closing the Holy Door, the Pope handed this cross to the young people of the world, represented by youngsters from the Saint Lawrence International Youth Center in Rome. His words on that occasion were: "Dear young people, on closing the Holy Year, I entrust to you the sign of this Jubilee Year: the Cross of Christ! Take it around the world as sign of the love of the Lord Jesus for humanity and proclaim to all that only in Christ dead and risen is there salvation and redemption" (Rome, April 22, 1984).
The young people made their own the Holy Father´s wish. They took the Cross to the Saint Lawrence Center, which became its permanent home during the periods it was not on pilgrimage in the world.
In 2003, at the end of Palm Sunday Mass, John Paul II gave young people a copy of the icon Maria Salus Populi Romani: "To the delegation that has come from Germany I also give today the icon of Mary. Henceforth, together with the Cross, this icon will accompany World Youth Days. It will be the sign of the maternal presence of Mary close young people, called -- as the Apostle Saint John -to receive her in their life" (Angelus, 18th World Youth Day, April 13, 2003). The original version of the icon is kept in the Basilica of Saint Mary Major in Rome.
There are many testimonies of persons who have been profoundly touched by their encounter with the Cross: in recent years, these testimonies have been even more numerous, or perhaps they have had a wider diffusion through the Internet. These testimonies can be found in the Saint Lawrence International Youth Center, usual home of the Cross, but also in magazines and publications dedicated to WYDs. Some wonder how two wooden pieces can have such an effect on a person´s life; yet, wherever the Cross goes, people ask that it might return. Seen on this Cross is the presence of the love of God. Through this Cross, many young people are able to understand better the Resurrection and some find the courage to make decisions in regard to their life.
THE COURSE OF THE CROSS AND ICON THROUGH THE WORLD:
1984.- On the occasion of the Holy Year of the Redemption, Pope John Paul II decided to place a cross about four meters from the main altar of Saint Peter´s Basilica. At the end of the Holy Year, he gave it to the young people of the world, with these words: "Take it around the world as sign of the love of the Lord Jesus".
1985.- On hearing the news of the first journeys of the Cross, the Pope requested that it be taken to Prague, then still behind the Iron Curtain. Being observed that year was the United Nations International Year of Youth, and on Palm Sunday 300,000 young people took part in the meeting with the Pope in Saint Peter´s. Announced in December was the institution of World Youth Days every Palm Sunday.
1987.- The first WYD outside Rome was held in Buenos Aires. The Cross went to America for the first time.
1989.- The Cross visited Spain for the first time, for WYD in Santiago de Compostela; and to Asia.
1992.- The Cross was entrusted for the first time to the young people of the diocese which would be the venue of the next WYD (Denver, Colorado, USA); it also visited Australia for the first time.
2002.- Pausing on its pilgrimage through Canada, the young people´s Cross visited Ground Zero in New York. It was taken from Montreal to Toronto on foot, in a journey that lasted 43 days.
2003.- At the end of the Palm Sunday Mass, in which Canadian young people handed the Cross to the Germans for Cologne´s WYD, the Pope also gave them a copy of the icon of Mary, Salus Populi Romani, and since then the Cross and Icon journey together.
2006-2007.- Before arriving in Australia for WYD 2008, the Cross and Icon went to the five continents.
2008-2010.- The Cross has gone to different places such as Aquila, Italy, after the earthquake that devastated the Abruzzi Region. During the celebration in Saint Peter´s Square on Palm Sunday, 2009, Benedict XVI handed the WYD Cross and Icon to young people of Madrid, who went to Rome for the occasion.
At present, the WYD Cross and Icon are on pilgrimage in the archdiocese of Madrid; subsequently they will go to other Spanish dioceses.