Story of the Cross of the Holy Year of Redemption


During the Holy Year of the Redemption 1983-1984, a large wooden cross stood in Saint Peter’s Basilica. On Easter Sunday, 22 April 1984, Pope John Paul II gave this Cross to the youth of the world who were represented by the young people in the San Lorenzo International Youth Centre.

The Holy Father said to them:

"My dear young people, at the conclusion of the Holy Year, 

I entrust to you the sign of this Jubilee Year: the Cross of Christ! 

Carry it throughout the world as a symbol of Christ’s love for humanity, 

and announce to everyone that only in the death and resurrection of Christ 

can we find salvation and redemption.”


The Holy Year Cross immediately set out on its travels that brought it to Germany, France, Czechoslovakia, Italy, Luxembourg, Ireland, Scotland, Malta, the United States, the Netherlands, Korea, Poland, Switzerland and Australia. While it continued to visit dioceses all over the world, it was a special participant at World Youth Day in Buenos Aires (1987), Santiago de Compostela (1989), Czestochowa (1991), Denver (1993) and Manila (1995). After so much travelling in different places, the Holy Year Cross was in a bad state of repair, and so it was replaced by a copy in 1996.

The WYD Cross that is presently travelling the world is a copy of that original Holy Year Cross that Pope John Paul II entrusted to young people. It is continuing the task of that first Cross in reaching out to the world, in particular to people in those countries where WYD is to be hosted, producing many spiritual benefits wherever it goes. It has taken part in WYD in Paris (1997), Rome (2000), Toronto (2002), Cologne (2005) and Sydney (2008). It also travelled around Africa in 2006 and Oceania in 2007. At each stage of its journey, Christ reveals his Love and Mercy to those who approach the Cross and to those who carry it.

In 2003, Pope John Paul II gave the youth of the world an icon of Our Lady Salus Populi Romani to accompany the Cross on its pilgrimage throughout the world. In this way Our Lady helps young people to discover the meaning of the Cross: the infinite love of the One who has given his life for us.

The Cross that stands in the San Lorenzo Centre church is composed of parts of the Holy Year Cross: the horizontal bar and the plaque. The vertical bar belongs to the first copy that began to travel the world in 1996. The wear and tear that can be noted on the Cross is a testimony to how it has been carried and venerated by huge numbers of people.

During Palm Sunday Mass on 5 April 2009 on the occasion of the handover of the Cross and Icon from Australia to Spain in view of WYD 2011 in Madrid, Pope Benedict XVI said:

With the Cross, we move forward along its path and thus we find our own path. When we touch the Cross, or rather, when we carry it, we touch the mystery of God, the mystery of Jesus Christ. The mystery that God so loved the world – us – that he gave his only-begotten Son for us (cf. Jn 3:16). We touch the marvellous mystery of God’s love, the only genuinely redemptive truth. But we also touch the fundamental law, the constitutive norm of our lives, namely the fact that without this “yes” to the Cross, without walking in communion with Christ day by day, life cannot succeed. 

The ongoing pilgrimage of the WYD Cross is truly a source of immense grace. So many people have found consolation and peace for their suffering as they approached the Cross. So many have been touched by the mystery of God revealed in Christ as they came into contact with this Cross. Many were so moved by the Mercy of Jesus Christ for sinners that they found the courage to ask for baptism or the sacrament of reconciliation. So many vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life were heard at the foot of this Cross, and so many gave their “yes” to Christ.

Yes, Jesus’ Cross is a source of life and salvation for everyone in this world! 

Let us welcome it! Let us gaze on it! Let us venerate it! Let us carry it! 

Let us proclaim it!


We adore you, O Christ, and bless you,

because by your Holy Cross you have redeemed the world.

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