University of Hawai'i Press
  • Religion and the Contemporary Phase of Globalization: Insights from a Study of John Paul II’s World Youth Days*

Experts are very divided about whether religions have helped or hindered the latest step towards globalization. While archive-based studies tracking the relationships between religions and globalization remain scarce, this article aims to contribute to this conversation through a historical inquiry into Word Youth Days (WYDs), global religious festivals organized by the Catholic Church every two or three years since 1984. Reviewing the documentation spread in seven of the eight countries where WYDs were held during John Paul II’s pontificate, the author argues that these mega-events, embedded in the globalization process, were an attempt to make globalization more inclusive. According to Mercier, Catholicism remain a globalizing force in the contemporary era.


Catholicism, mega-events, World Youth Days, young people, pilgrimage, glocalization

Mainstream global historians usually see the latest phase of globalization (defined as the process of increasing transnational flows which turn the world into a “single place”1) as a technologically, politically, and economically driven process. According to Ralph [End Page 321] Buultjens, it is the transportation and communication revolution of the second half of the twentieth century, including the invention of satellite transmission that has managed “to bring the world together.”2 For Akira Iriye, political factors were crucial. The emergence of a global community was linked to the action of both intergovernmental organizations and international nongovernmental organizations, all strongly aware that nations and people “shared certain interests and objectives across national boundaries and that they could best solve their many problems by pooling their resources.”3 Political international agreements promoting free movement of goods, capital, and persons dramatically increased transnational flows. For other historians, radical or liberal, globalization was driven by economic factors, and more specifically by the dynamics of capitalism, which need to expand abroad. This is Immanuel Wallerstein’s thesis.4 Many other social scientists stress the role of multinational corporations in the everincreasing circulation of goods and money at the world scale.

Religion is not much considered in discussion of the latest stage of globalization, as if its role would have been negligible. Religion would only be relevant for understanding globalization during ancient times. Scholars converge to recognize that during Antiquity, the Middle Ages and the early Modern Era, religion inspired universal perceptions and planetary actions, and attempted to promote the emergence of a global consciousness.5 But with secularization in modern times, its influence would have become secondary. Of course, the consensus is not total. For example, Jacques Derrida considers that all the characteristics of the apparently secular globalization would in fact mark the triumph of Roman Christianity and would be a mondialatinisation (globalatinization).6 It would be the Christian civilization that would have invented the category of “religion,” as a specific sphere distinct from the whole of society, allowing the autonomy and the deployment of the political, [End Page 322] technological, and economic fields. According to the French philosopher, the expansion of capitalism, the invention of new media of communication and the spread of democratic values would all be related to “the structure of the Christian message.”7

But his point of view is rather original. When the public and academic debate comes to the relation between religion and globalization in the contemporary era, the two terms are presented as clashing: their hegemonic ambitions having been challenged, religions would have become a part of “the backlash against globalization” at the end of the twentieth century. Their leaders would have fought capitalism, fostered fundamentalism or endorsed parochial movements while exploiting the globalization process, like Usama Bin Laden transferring worldwide financial funds or playing the game of global communication. This thesis was defended by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge8 and by Roland Robertson,9 in works that were both published after September 11. In a certain way, these authors echoed, although in a hardened form, the remarks made by Kofi Annan as early as 1999. The then Secretary General of the United Nations noted that many of those for whom globalization was threatening cultural traditions were resisting “by appealing to a hostile and defensive form of piety—often by reasserting (or reinventing) local traditions in fundamentalist form.”10

Historians of Catholicism have not been completely absent from the conversation about the role of religious people, and more specifically religious leaders, in the globalization process. Vincent Viaene has studied how nineteenth-century Catholic internationalism, especially charities such as the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul, generated transnational financial flows and global networks among Catholics.11 But archive-based studies tracking the relationship between Catholicism and globalization have been mainly focused on Jesuits, whose history began in the first half of the sixteenth century, at the time of the first European colonial expansion, which followed the “discovery” of the “New World.” Michelle Molina has explored [End Page 323] how Ignatian spirituality fostered Early modern globalization. The Spiritual Exercises were “driven by an understanding of individual salvation to be achieved by mobility in a world that had only recently become a globe to be traversed.”12 God could be found in the “Indies” and through the encounter of the “Other.” The first members of the Company of Jesus, like Francis Xavier, who was constantly on the road and traveled to Japan to share his spiritual experience, nurtured a global ideal and connected Europe with the other parts of the world. John McGreevy’s book as well as the one by José Casanova and Thomas Banchoff contain insights on how the Jesuit ethos continued to interact with the modern and contemporary phases of globalization. McGreevy has noted that the exaltation of “race” in Hitler’s Germany and Mussolini’s Italy reinvigorated the Jesuit vision of humanity as a single family which had been forged in the Early Modern era. After World War II, Jesuits used their transnational network of universities to train the Catholic leaders of a globalized world. The Company of Jesus endorsed the United Nations system, and backed human rights (including religious freedom) and democracy.13 Contributions gathered by Casanova and Banchoff have placed greater emphasis on the Jesuits’ critical response to liberal globalization, through their denunciation of economic and social inequality and their new emphasis on common good and justice. According to them, the impact of the Society of Jesus on contemporary globalization should not be overestimated: in the second half of the twentieth century, the Jesuit network was “less connected to political and economic elites than it was” during the Early Modern era.14

Despite these recent works, historical studies of the relationship of Catholicism and globalization at the end of the twentieth century remain scarce. A historical study of World Youth Days (hereafter WYDs) can contribute to filling this gap. The Catholic Church has organized these global religious festivals, launched by Pope John Paul II in 1984, every two or three years. Using documentation from seven of the eight countries where WYDs were held during John Paul II’s pontificate (from the Vatican to Canada through Argentina, Spain, [End Page 324] Poland, United States, Philippines, and France15), I intend to put forward two ideas: John Paul II’s WYDs were embedded in the globalization process, and they were an attempt to make globalization more inclusive.

WYDs Embedded in the Globalization Process

An Increasingly Global Event

As suggested by the first word, World Youth Days were conceived as global events from the outset. For the 1984 and 1985 editions, held in Rome, the organizers asked the national Catholic bishops’ conferences to send young ambassadors so that as many countries as possible would be represented. The communication highlighted the number of foreign delegations and valued those who came from the most distant places. It was decided in 1985 or 1986 to rotate the location of the gathering and this led to the choice of Buenos Aires as the 1987 WYD host city. Just as Pierre de Coubertin had successfully argued that the restored Olympic Games should not always be held in Athens,16 it was decided that WYDs should not be established in Rome, so that they could become truly global and reach as many countries as possible. The first editions were held in sanctuaries nestled in small towns (Santiago de Compostela in 1989 and Czestochowa in 1991), but from 1993 onwards, WYDs were held in world cities: Denver (1993), Manila (1995), Paris (1997), Rome (2000), and finally Toronto (2002), a cosmopolitan metropolis in which 50 percent of the inhabitants were immigrants. Dennis Schnurr, Denver WYD’s main organizer, has reported that John Paul II told him during one of their meetings that he had chosen the United States because it was the node in the global information network. In this way, the event’s message could “get worldwide attention.”17

This strategy was successful. Looking at the registrations trends, there is clearly an increase and diversification of the transnational flows of pilgrims. At the first gathering in Rome in 1984, there were 24,000 foreigners out of the 150,000 registered, that is, 16.12 percent. Although there were a few pilgrims from Third World countries, Japan, and North America, with the result that 67 different countries were [End Page 325] represented, non-Italian pilgrims came mainly from Western Europe, especially from Spain and France. In 2002, the proportion was reversed, with 138,000 foreigners out of the 187,000 registered, that is, 74 percent. U.S. Americans (51,000) outnumbered Canadians (49,000) but represented less than half of the international pilgrims, who came from 169 different countries, with large contingents of Europeans, giving the meeting a truly intercontinental profile. The Toronto Sun could legitimately headline, on the eve of the event, “World at our Door” (July 22, 2002).

Between these two dates, internationalization was not linear. At the Buenos Aires WYD (April ’87), “the international dimension was missing” according to the organizers.18 There were only 4,918 foreign pilgrims, including 2,203 Latin Americans (i.e., 86 percent). Thanks to the Italian participation (400), Europeans registered 593 pilgrims, far ahead of North America (17), Asia (12), and Africa (12).19 This first edition outside Rome, ad experimentum, was conceived as a subcontinental rather than a worldwide meeting: it was the young Latin Americans who were invited to join the Pope.20 Catholic leaders from other areas were encouraged to send small delegations and to organize their own WYD celebration at national, diocesan, or parish levels. After Buenos Aires, WYD celebrations were no longer associated with Palm Sunday. The next three rallies happened around 15 August, a convenient date for international travel as it corresponded to university holidays in North America and Europe: international participation surpassed not only that of the Buenos Aires gathering but also that of the two meetings in Rome: 50,000 foreign pilgrims registered for Santiago de Compostela (1989).21 In Czestochowa (1991), tens of thousands of young people from Eastern and Western Europe signed up. At the Manila ’95 WYD, international participation fell, with only 15,000 registrations,22 not only because of the selected date (January, for climatic reasons) but also because the Philippines is a Catholic isolate in Asia. Paris (1997) and Rome (2000) again reversed [End Page 326] the trend. The City of Light attracted nearly 260,000 foreign youth and young adults.23

The internationalization of participation went hand in hand with the internationalization of media coverage. As early as Santiago ’89 WYD, of the 1,204 accredited journalists, 330 were foreigners. Nineteen non-Spanish television channels generated transnational information flows, connecting viewers from all over the world to the great gathering held in Galicia.24

This trend was similar to that of the Olympic Games over the same period. At the Winter Olympics, the number of participating countries increased from 49 to 77 between the Sarajevo ’84 Games and the Salt Lake City ’02 Games.25 The globalization of Catholicism was the result of a more general movement that concerned all religions, but also sport, culture, and especially the economy. From 1985 to 2000, foreign direct investment jumped from $50 billion to $1,400 billion.26 As for international tourist flows, they rose from 285 million in 1980 to 700 million in 2000.27

The Effects of Political and Economic Liberalization

John Paul II’s WYDs must also be seen in a political context in which international organizations and governments were working to break down barriers in the world.

At the international level, the seventh and eighth rounds of GATT negotiations led to a dramatic decline in tariffs (reaching 5 percent in 1994) in the last two decades of the twentieth century.28 The creation of the World Trade Organization in 1995 extended trade liberalization to new sectors such as agriculture and services. The International Monetary Fund, which, from the 1980s onwards, imposed a trade liberalization component in its adjustment plans, extended this trend [End Page 327] towards the Global South. At the continental level, the creation of free trade areas in the early 1990s in South America (Mercosur), Southeast Asia (ASEAN), and North America (NAFTA) amplified the globalization of trade in goods. WYDs took advantage of this free trade dynamic. Some of the pilgrims’ equipment (hats, bags, booklets) could be manufactured at low cost in Asian countries. For the Paris ’97 WYD, the pilgrims’ booklets and scarves were made in Macao and arrived by a container in Le Havre.29 In an era when multinationals were seeking to penetrate new markets, the worldwide dimension of WYD was an argument for obtaining free services or support from global companies in exchange for direct or indirect advertising. For the Paris WYD, Maurice Lévy, one of the most influential French business managers, CEO of Publicis (a French multinational advertising company), told the business leaders he met, “[transl.] For a company, WYD can give an excellent boost to its reputation with an international target group of young people [ . . . ]: having LU biscuits eaten by more than 100,000 young people from Central Europe gives Danone [the food company that produced LU Biscuits] a valuable edge.”30

But more than economic liberalization, it was the political democratization of the 1980s and 1990s that benefitted the WYDs. They could probably not have been organized in Buenos Aires in 1987, Santiago de Compostela in 1989, or Manila in 1995 had the Argentine (1983), Spanish (1975), and Philippine (1986) dictatorships not previously come to an end. John Paul II’s WYDs were also part of the advance of European integration. The organization of the Santiago ’89 WYD came three years after the inclusion of Spain in the European Economic Community. It also coincided with a Council of Europe initiative to mark out the Way of St. James, which crossed the whole continent, as European cultural route. In March 1995, the implementation of the Schengen Agreement resulted in the abolition of controls at the signatory countries’ common borders, which facilitated European pilgrims’ mobility for the Paris ’97 WYD and the Rome ’00 WYD. WYD globalization was also an outcome of the collapse of the Soviet bloc between 1989 and 1991, and the subsequent opening of its borders. This led to a spectacular increase in the participation of young people from Eastern Europe. While there were only 983 in 1984 (all Eastern European countries included), there were [End Page 328] no fewer than 27,500 for the Paris WYD (counting only those from Poland). Their delegation ranked second after the Italians.31 John Paul II’s WYDs confirm José Casanova’s hypothesis that the erasing of borders and the weakening of government controls on international flows facilitate the global redeployment of Catholicism.32

Commercial and Technological Innovations

Linked to the 1980s and 1990s liberalizations, commercial, and technological innovations also contributed to the increase in human and information flows. John Paul II’s WYDs benefitted fully from this.

Air transport costs fell by 85 percent between 1947 and the beginning of the twenty-first century, with a sharp acceleration from the 1970s onwards.33 The 1980s marked an important step in this trend, with the development of charter flights. As early as the 1987 rally, WYD organizers chartered two planes to fly from Rome to Buenos Aires. They offered European participants tickets for US$950 (US $2,150 in 2019).34 The creation of low-cost airlines in the 1990s (EasyJet appeared in 1995) increased air transport democratization, allowing more and more young pilgrims to take cheap continental flights.

Regarding transnational information flows, so necessary for organizing and publicizing WYDs, the spread of the fax machine during the 1980s facilitated communication between the Pontifical Council for Laity in Rome (the Roman Curia’s department in charge of WYDs, hereafter PCL), the local organizers and the delegations in the different countries. Whereas for the 1984 to 1987 gatherings, information had only been transmitted by mail, phone, or face-to-face (PCL taking advantage, for instance, of bishops’ meetings in Rome), for the 1989 edition, the fax became the favored channel of communication between the PCL and the Santiago committee.35 The first website was set up for Paris ’97 WYD, but communications [End Page 329] continued to be by fax. For Toronto ’02, the switch to e-mail was made and the WYD website, managed by professionals, was at the heart of the communication campaign.

Technological innovations also made it possible to overcome the communication problems specific to international mass gatherings. From Santiago de Compostela, TV professionals filmed the big celebrations. Edited images were shown live on giant screens and broadcast on television.36 The use of shortwave radio enabled pilgrims to hear translations into different languages.37 In 2002, CBC/Radio Canada was the host broadcaster for major WYD events. While transmitting live images and sound on its own networks, the Canadian consortium also supplied the foreign broadcast media. An international broadcasting center, located at the National Trade Center, offered a fully-equipped television and radio master control, stand up locations as well as workspaces for journalists.38 These innovations, which made it possible to abolish distances and overcome language barriers, were enthusiastically celebrated by John Paul II in Czestochowa on August 15, 1991, “Thank you, God! Thank you, God, for all the multilingual media that enabled us to ‘technically’ experience the event of Pentecost. Thank you, God for those screens, and they must be praised especially today. Owing to the screens, all that has taken place here around these trees has happened everywhere.”39 Advances in information technology were seen by the Pope as a providential means of realizing God’s plan to bring humanity together in its diversity. These words are a striking illustration of Derrida’s theory according to which Christianity was inextricably medium. Christianity would be “the religion of the media or the media of religion” because, through the Eucharist, it would seek to make present in the whole world an event (the sacrifice of Christ) that happened in a given place and at a given time.40 [End Page 330]

Pop Culture, Glocalization, and a Networked Approach

Beyond the appropriation of technological innovations, WYD organizers also learned from the 1980s and 1990s global corporations how to expand abroad. To spread what was called “pop culture” all over the world, multinational entertainment companies (Disney, Time/Warner, Universal Music, etc.) produced blockbusters accessible to the greatest number of people. This led to favoring elements that met the most universal needs, to the detriment of features that were too culturally specific, too demanding, and too elitist. According to Pawel Milcarek, John Paul II’s WYDs became part of this paradigm: they were being changed “into a play, assuming a ludic character borrowed partly from pop culture and partly from show business.”41 In fact, during the vigils, preceded by shows and performances by popular singers, the Pope had no hesitation in making a joke. In Denver, for example, when taking leave of the young people, who were going to spend the night under the stars, he wished them with a mischievous eye “a good night, perhaps a night of prayer, a night of thinking” before rectifying, with a big smile, “a night of joy, sacred joy.” The final message, “Young people of Denver, John Paul II, he loves you” was simple and universal.42 At the Manila vigil, the Pope twirled his cane in the manner of Charlie Chaplin.43 Except for “Maître et Seigneur” inspired by a medieval French religious song, the official hymns of WYDs—“Resta qui con noi” (1984), “Somos los jovenes del 2000” (1989), “Abba Ojcze” (1991), “One Body” (1993), “Tell the world of His love” (1995), “Emmanuel” (2000) and “Lumière du monde, light of the world” (2002)—sounded like pop music. The melodies were soft yet catchy, easy to remember and sing, and emotionally stirring. The instrumentation combined violins, pianos, synthesizers, and drums, sometimes saxophones. One or two vocalists were supported by a choir for the chorus. The lyrics celebrated brotherhood, love, commitment to a better world. The way “One body,” Denver WYD’s official anthem, was chosen shows that the American organizers perfectly assumed this choice. After entrusting [End Page 331] the selection process to the National Association of Pastoral Musicians, the American steering committee took the lead in ruling out anything too slow and solemn, including a Taizé song that one of the Youth advisory committee members compared to a “funeral march.”44 After negotiations with the PCL, “One body” was finally chosen. The chorus, “We are one body,” echoed “We are the world,” composed by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie in 1985 to raise funds against famine in Ethiopia. This worldwide hit, sung by some of the biggest stars of the U.S. music industry, founded in God the unity of mankind (“We’re all a part of God’s great big family”) and included (tinkered) references to the Bible in order to create solidarity with the starving: “As God has shown us by turning stone to bread, so we all must lend a helping hand.” “One body” appropriated these themes (“Will you feed my hungry?”) while further emphasizing evangelical references and introducing a “pro-life” dimension (“see the unborn baby, the forgotten one”) that was relatively consensual in the American Catholicism of this time.45 Two years later, Manila WYD organizers organized a national competition to select the official song. Trina, the happy winner, had been composing pop love music for the previous five years.46 Successive PCL staff members in charge of WYDs continued with this promotion of youth culture within the Catholic Church. The first, Father Michalik, has told how, for the Rome ’84 and ’85 gatherings, with John Paul II’s support, he persuaded the Sistine Chapel choir to make way for Catholic pop music groups, including Gen Rosso, part of the Focolare movement.47 For Denver, his successor, Father Boccardo, concerned that the classical music concert planned by the American organizers would “not appeal to young people,” backed a more popular approach. 48

Glocalization was another strategy for penetrating global markets. It consists of adapting a standardized product or service to the culture of the place where the company wishes to set up shop. Disneyland Paris is not an exact copy of Disneyland Florida but is adapted to European [End Page 332] consumers’ tastes.49 In religious studies, the word describes the ways religions take into account local customs to export themselves more successfully.50 The idea suits John Paul II’s pontificate perfectly. In all regions of the world, his canonization policy aimed at promoting local saints who could become mediators between Catholicism and national cultures.51 The same glocalized approach can be observed for WYDs. While the structure forged in a Roman context in 1984–1985 remained the same from one edition to the next, it proved to be surprisingly flexible. For example, given the meaning of the word “youth” in the United States, which refers to 13–18-year-olds, while in Europe it is more applicable to 18–30-year-olds (called “young adults” in the United States), the American organizers decided, with the agreement of the PCL, to broaden the original target of WYDs (16–30 years old) to include 13–15-year olds, which meant adapting the program and mobilizing “chaperones” to look after the teenagers.52 For the subsequent WYD in Manila, 15–39-year olds were invited,53 that is, the vast majority of the Filipino population given its demographic composition. Two years later, when WYD came to France, a country where the participation of minors at large gatherings is legally complicated, the organizers restricted access to 18–35-year olds.

Another interesting example of glocalization is the cultural appropriation of the idea of pilgrimage, one of the main features of the first WYDs. From 1984 to 1991, all the gatherings took place at Catholic shrines. Rome is the place where the graves of Saints Peter and Paul, some of the first Christian martyrs and the Popes are located. At the 1987 edition in Buenos Aires, the welcoming ceremony took place in the shrine of Our Lady of Luján, forty-three miles west of the Argentine capital, which is said to have been the site of a miracle in the fifteenth century. Luján, a place of Marian devotion, also symbolized the slum-dwellers’ resistance to the dictatorship: the pilgrimage was a space for free expression, allowing them to escape their lack of liberty [End Page 333] for a few hours.54 The Santiago WYD gathered young people in one of the major Christian pilgrimage sites, associated with the memory of the Apostle James the Greater. Regarding the ’91 WYD, Czestochowa is built around the sanctuary of Jasna Góra, designed as a jewel case for the “Black Virgin,” an icon venerated since the fifteenth century. Like Luján, Jasna Góra, to which pilgrims flocked under communism, was also linked to the struggle against oppression. The Santiago and Czestochowa WYDs placed particular emphasis on another component of the pilgrimage, that of the journey. The 1989 WYD participants were encouraged to travel to Santiago in a partially non-motorized way: most of them walked a few dozen kilometers on footpaths, others came by bicycle or even by boat.55 The same happened in 1991: young Poles and young Westerners were encouraged to walk along the paths leading to Jasna Góra.56

At the first Denver WYD preparatory meeting, when PCL staff turned to the concept of “pilgrimage,” the American organizers were rather bewildered.57 First of all, because the capital of Colorado was obviously not a shrine, and second, because there were no religious pilgrimage routes on U.S. soil. When Paul Henderson consulted youth ministers, they did not see how the scheme could be transposed. Discussion followed to “contextualize the tradition of WYDs in the experience of the Catholic Church in the United States.”58 Different ideas emerged. Concerning the “travel” component, participants were invited to use ground transportation to reach the site of the papal visit: “that might be the US way of doing a pilgrimage as opposed to taking an airplane.”59 A proposal was drawn up for a route to Denver by bus, with stops in several “hub cities.” In addition, during the gathering (and not before as had been the case for the previous editions), pilgrims were invited to walk the 13 miles (21 kilometers) from downtown Denver, where all the activities took place from Tuesday to Saturday, to the Cherry Creek State Park, where the vigil and final Mass were held during the final weekend.60 Regarding the sanctuary component, highlighting the Rocky Mountains surrounding Denver was the first [End Page 334] response. This time, the place conducive to an encounter with God was not a temple built by men, but the wilderness, which plays an important role in the American culture.61 The second solution consisted of turning the notion of sanctuary upside down:

For the first time, the international gathering will not take place at a historical pilgrimage site. Rather the shrine will arise from the pilgrimage. Our pilgrimage to Denver will emphasize that the human being is the true sanctuary, the true shrine of God. Denver, therefore, is not a pilgrimage to a shrine but a pilgrimage of the shrines. World Youth Day pilgrims will be making their pilgrimage to the sanctuary of the human person.62

Using American cultural resources, organizers of the Denver WYD managed to glocalize a “product” still little exported to the United States. By the way, they actualized the dynamics of dissemination of the sacred which, according to Peter Brown, characterized Christianity. The sacred was “not permanently located in a few privileged areas,” but invested new places, either through importation of foreign relics or through the production of local relics.63 At the Manila WYD, the pilgrimage was approached differently once again. The travel component disappeared, and the shrine-temple component was reintroduced. On the Saturday morning before the vigil, participants were encouraged to visit Manila’s churches as popular places of piety.64

Glocalization also applied to papal messages, adapted to national sensitivities. While in Santiago, Czestochowa, Denver, and Manila, John Paul II delivered uncompromising speeches focused on sexual morality (premarital relations, abortion, etc.) and very critical of modernity and its “culture of death,” in Paris he insisted on Catholic social teaching and tried to underline convergences between Christianity and liberal values. Bishop François Duthel, member of the first section of the Secretariat of State in 1997, who probably wrote some of John Paul II’s addresses, has explained that it was adapted specifically to French society, which was secular and allergic to religious incursions into the intimate sphere: “[trans.] The Pope’s primary concern was first of all to evangelize. Whereas in Denver, American [End Page 335] society could hear a message about life issues, in French society, any message that intended to evangelize would have to be very different.”65

According to the sociologist Manuel Castells, in the late twentieth century, the organizations that were most successful in becoming globalized were those that adopted network-like practices and forms of organization, such as Benetton. Horizontal cooperation between national branches, flat hierarchies, proximity between decisionmakers, and local consumers would have been much better adapted than pyramidal management in the neoliberal globalization context.66 What was true in economics would also have been true in the religious field and would explain how the Pentecostal churches gained the upper hand, operating as a network, to the detriment of the Catholic Church, operating as a vertical bureaucracy.67 To a certain extent, WYDs can be seen as an attempt by the Catholic Church to adapt to the new global environment. From the first WYDs, the mobilization of young people involved the transnational networks of the new Catholic movements (Focolare, Communion and Liberation, etc.). From Buenos Aires onwards, the WYD was prepared less in Rome, where PCL staff numbers were reduced, and more in the host diocese. While the Curia was the ultimate arbiter, most of the decisions were made by local players, who were in contact with their counterparts from previous WYDs. Upon learning in summer 1993 that his Archdiocese of Paris had been chosen to host the WYD, Cardinal Lustiger traveled to the United States to meet Father Schnurr, who had just organized the Denver WYD. The U.S. and French middle managers got in touch and exchanged documentation. Later, in January 1995, several French organizers went to Manila to watch live the festival they would soon be hosting.68 In 1998, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops’ ad hoc committee, charged with studying the possibility of hosting the ’02 WYD in Canada, met with the French organizers and asked the American organizers to send them their organizational charts and budgets.69 The PCL also worked to link these local players. It brought them together in May 1996 in Czestochowa, in order to make a pastoral evaluation and to propose ways forward.70 Father Renato Boccardo, [End Page 336] who was in charge of the preparation of WYDs from 1992 to 2001, specifically sought to set up an “international network of volunteers” from the pool of former participants in the youth forum (which, during WYDs, brought together delegates from each participating country). This network played a central role in the preparation of the Manila WYD.71

WYDs as an Attempt to Make Globalization More Inclusive

As well as being a by-product of globalization, WYDs can also be seen as an attempt to make it more inclusive, following the directions given in the late 1990s and early 2000s in John Paul II’s statements.

John Paul II’s Thoughts on Globalization

Micklethwait and Wooldridge distinguish two periods in the relationship between John Paul II and globalization. They suggest that, from the beginning of his pontificate to the end of the 1980s, he accelerated the process by playing a key role in the opening of the Soviet bloc. Then, as the 1990s progressed, they believe that he became “increasingly uneasy about what he had wrought” worrying that “unbridled capitalism” was little improvement on “savage Marxism”: for the Supreme pontiff, “globalization began to assume the same role [ . . . ] that communism once had”72 according to both journalists, who quoted extracts from Ecclesia in America delivered in January 1999: “If globalization is ruled merely by the laws of the market applied to suit the powerful, the consequences cannot but be negative.” The Polish Pope and large parts of the Catholic Church are believed to have been part of the antiglobal coalition which appeared with the protest against the World Trade Organization conference in Seattle in November 1999.

John Paul II’s approach to globalization was actually more complex. To better grasp it, we must first understand with Max L. Stackhouse that, in Christian theology, “every social development can be seen as under ‘the powers’ (such as Mammon or Mars) in various degrees, or more or less constrained or guided by Grace.” Depending on their [End Page 337] sensitivities, Christian leaders may therefore see globalization as a symptom of sin (an attempt to build a new Tower of Babel) or as a favorable opportunity offered by Providence, which can allow humanity to grow, so long as the process is guided by a “religiously and ethically shaped civil society.”73 Wojtyla was rather on this second side. According to Vásquez and Marquardt’s analysis,74 Wojtyla did not oppose globalization, which he defined as “a process made inevitable by increasing communication between the different parts of the world, leading in practice to overcoming distances.” Its ethical implications could be positive (it can “help to bring greater unity among peoples and make possible a better service to the human family”) or negative (“unfair competition, which puts the poor nations in a situation of ever-increasing inferiority”).75 What John Paul II was fighting against was purely market-driven globalization, which, according to him, reinforced not only economic but also cultural inequalities, since only a few privileged countries were able to disseminate their products on a global scale.76 Above and beyond its inherent injustices, a globalization only motivated by greed represented a threat to human and Christian values, since global media imposed “new scales of values which [we]re often arbitrary and basically materialistic, in the face of which it [was] difficult to maintain a lively commitment to the values of the Gospel.”77

While challenging the globalization of capitalism, on the other hand John Paul II endorsed the ethical globalization the Post Second World War Universal Declaration of Human Rights aimed at.78 According to him, only the universalization of these principles, inscribed in a latent state by God in every human consciousness, could make “humanity one family,” whose members no longer seek “the well-being of any one political, racial, or cultural community [ . . . ], but rather the good of humanity as a whole.”79 This ethical globalization could channel the economic and technological globalization positively. This approach was not so far from the thinking of some global historians, such as Ralph Buultjens, who wrote in 1993: [End Page 338]

If globalization is to contribute to a positive new civilization, there must be a comparable development on a spiritual level—a global consciousness that touches the human mind and spirit. Without such an evolution in attitudes—changes that require a growing appreciation of the fraternity of humankind and the universal value of life— globalization may, in fact, promote and disperse negative trends, including global economic exploitation and a proliferation of high technology weapons.80

An Underlying Theme

To what extent did WYDs enable John Paul II to implement this project of moral and spiritual globalization? In 1996, assessing the gatherings he had instituted ten years earlier, he wrote, “This young people’s pilgrimage builds bridges of brotherhood and hope between continents, peoples, and cultures. [ . . . ]. [young people] join hands, forming an immense circle of friendship, uniting in faith in the Risen Lord all the different races and nations, cultures and experiences.”81 Making WYDs a Catholic response to globalization would, however, be anachronistic, insofar as their creation preceded its installation as a central theme of the public debate. The phenomenon may have been ancient, but it really became an issue at the beginning of the 1990s, with the fall of the USSR, the exponential increase in trade flows and the invention of the world wide web.82

In 1985, when John Paul II first uttered the expression “World Youth Day,” he linked it to the transformation of international relations by the new generations.83 In the mid-1980s, this was not yet the market that the Polish Pope targeted, rather, he was referring to the leaders of the great powers, particularly the USSR. The WYD was branded as a festival that would make it possible to transcend borders in the name of the peace values the Catholic Church was supporting. The Santiago and Czestochowa WYDs can be seen as attempts to unite Europe around its “Christian roots.”84 In Czestochowa specifically, [End Page 339] John Paul II called for the reunification of the two parts of the European continent, which he likened to two lungs.85

The Denver ’93 gathering allowed the Pope to renew the link between WYD and protest against the world order, now placed under the aegis of the American hyperpower:

We are witnessing a “succession of empires” in our world—the repeated attempts to create political unity which particular individuals have tried to impose on others. The results are there for all to see. True and lasting unity cannot be created by coercion and violence. It can be achieved only by building on the foundations of a common heritage of values accepted and shared by all, values such as respect for the dignity of the human person, a willingness to welcome life, the defense of human rights, and openness to transcendence and the realm of the spirit. In view of this, and as a response to the challenges of our changing times, the World Youth Gathering is meant to be a first step and a proposal of a new unity, a unity which transcends the political order and enlightens it.86

Shortly after the first Gulf War, in which the Catholic Church had vigorously opposed U.S.-coordinated military intervention, the Pope implicitly denounced political imperialism, but insofar as the United States was also an economic and cultural hyperpower, his message began the transition to his denunciation of the preeminence of markets and their pursuit of profit.

For the Paris ’97 WYD, whose French organizers based their communications on the fact that the meeting aimed at “making globalization more humane,” John Paul II defended the principle of the necessary globalization of the moral law in the French Catholic daily La Croix. In a certain way, in his dialogue with young people, he put the spiritual resources of Catholicism at the service of the doctrine of international human rights.87 In his preparatory message, he denounced the “unjust model of development, in which profit is given first place and the human being is made a means rather than an end.”88 During the encounter, his Catholic social teaching-focused addresses implicitly challenged global economy values. John Paul II [End Page 340] sought to make young people aware of the inequalities, injustices, and risks of cultural hegemony caused by globalization. In the field of Global Citizenship Education, which was developing in the 1990s, his pedagogical project seemed to lean more towards the radical pole (which sought to train activists who could challenge the dominant global capitalist system) than towards the neoliberal pole (which sought to train market-friendly individuals, who could become entrepreneurs).89 Nevertheless, the Polish pope’s position was ambivalent. At the beginning of his pontificate, Liberation theology had been condemned. Wojtyla was worried not only about the influence of Marxism, but also about an over-investment in the political field to the detriment of the spiritual field. This is the reason why he had promoted “new movements,” more focused on prayer and devotions than the Catholic Action or Jesuit-affiliated organizations.90 These new movements (especially Opus Dei and Legionaries of Christ) were often politically conservative and close to the business world. Their important, though not decisive, role in the organization of WYDs mitigated the impact of papal criticism of capitalism.

During the vigil of the Rome 2000 WYD, Wojtyla entrusted the young pilgrims with the mission of making the “earth ever more livable for all people”: “You will not resign yourselves to a world where other human beings die of hunger, remain illiterate, and have no work.”91 These words were in line with the traditional message of religions which, according to Stackhouse, “remind the core, ecumenical faith that the burden of change often falls on the weaker segments of the population, and that the bearers of a transformative ethic must attend to the damage done among them.”92

Crossing the Borders

Perhaps more than in speeches, it was through its actions that John Paul II’s WYDs promoted a more inclusive approach to globalization.

Technological progress and liberalization may have favored the mobility of some young people, but they represented a privileged minority on a global scale. WYD organizers sought to embody the ideal [End Page 341] of a globalization that would benefit everyone through actions that promoted the participation of young people whose mobility was prevented by political, economic, or cultural obstacles. As early as 1984, a solidarity fund was set up to finance the travel of young people from the least favored countries. In the beginning, the effort was especially directed towards the East. In 1984, the vice-president of the PCL, Bishop Cordes, on being informed that two buses of Yugoslav pilgrims were blocked at the Italian border because they had no money for visas, decided to pay their costs: “I knew the experience of the believers with the communist governments. I said to myself: they have to come, we’ll find the money.”93

For the Czestochowa ’91 WYD, the Pope was very concerned that the young people from the former communist bloc and the USSR, which was fading fast, should be able to participate: “[transl.] During our meetings, recalls Marian Duda, the main organizer of this edition, John Paul II always insisted that it should not be a meeting of young people who had already participated in previous WYDs. He wanted young Easterners to be able to come and it was this desire that had to be fulfilled as a priority.”94 To do this, the Polish organizers set up a dedicated office, directed by Marek Malisiewicz.95 Its members sought to inform young Eastern Europeans about the event, through the Polish embassies and consulates network on the one hand, and through the Catholic and Greek-Catholic clergy present in the Soviet republics on the other: the religious orders, especially the Dominicans, as well as several bishops, provided “invaluable help” in spreading the invitation.96 The arrival of Soviet pilgrims presupposed that they could move freely, which was not necessarily the case. At the meeting organized by the Taizé Community in Prague at the end of December 1990, no young people had been allowed to leave Soviet territory, even though several thousand had been announced. In an attempt to iron out the difficulties, Marek Malisiewicz met with the USSR ambassador to Poland.97 Finally, by personal decision of the Soviet Prime Minister, Walentin Pawłow, the Soviet youth were allowed to cross the border with an identity document and a list drawn up by their parish or movement.98 However, transport, food, and accommodation costs remained an insurmountable obstacle for most of them. The [End Page 342] Archbishop of Czestochowa, Mgr Nowak, who considered himself to have been “enlightened” by God, announced that the Soviet young people would be taken care of free of charge as soon as they arrived on Polish soil.99 Special trains and coaches were chartered to transport them from Poland’s eastern border to Czestochowa. Costs were kept to a minimum by the railway company, and were covered by the diocese, while an insurance company agreed to cover transport risks for free. As regards accommodation, the Polish army built a tent village which provided shelter for 50,000 young Soviets, the others being hosted by Polish families. Food was courtesy of Czestochowa local authorities, but the unexpected influx of Eastern pilgrims (more than 200,000, including 70,000 from the Soviet Republics) meant that stocks were insufficient.100 The solidarity of young Westerners, who shared their sandwiches, helped to overcome the shortage.101

In Czestochowa, WYDs accelerated the erasing of borders, by allowing young people from Eastern and Western Europe to meet for the first time. In 1995, in Manila, young people from mainland China, affiliated to the Patriotic Church, officially participated in the gathering.102 After 1991, however, the main challenge was to promote the mobility of young people from the Global South, whose travel was conditional on obtaining a visa that many could not afford. In Denver, U.S. authorities feared that pilgrims from Latin America would remain on U.S. soil illegally after the WYD, so they limited travel permits to teenagers and, in the case of young couples, to one of the two spouses.103 For Paris, both the PCL and the French organizers sought to encourage the participation of Africa, the continent on which WYD should have been held if logistical conditions had permitted. They negotiated a solution with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs allowing young people from the Global South to participate, while limiting the migratory “risk.”104 After considering granting visas and collective passports, the solution that was finally found was to send a secure registration certificate to the young people who had registered in their diocese or movement. It allowed them to obtain a visa without having to present the usual proofs of accommodation and conditions of stay. The costs of producing the certificate were borne by the Ministry of [End Page 343] Foreign Affairs. Exceptionally, by decision of Prime Minister Alain Juppé, the visa was granted free of charge, whereas it usually cost 200 Francs.105 WYDs, as exceptional opportunities for cross-border mobility, offered an international experience to a significant number of young people from Eastern and Southern countries, as expressed by Jerome Cruz, a young Filipino who, thanks to funding, was able to participate in the gathering in Rome in 1985: “My experience in Rome gave me a view of the world; it was my first trip abroad. It opened my eyes to an initial international experience. I met all kinds of people, tried to relate with them, and shared with them my experience back home.”106

From a Local to a Global Church

The experience of religious globalization did not relate only to foreign pilgrims. For the young people of the host country, WYD could also be an experience of internationalization at home. While staying in-country, the spiritual opening up allowed them to free themselves from spatial barriers. And from those of his parish in the case of Paul Jarzembowski, an American of Polish origin who participated in the Denver WYD at the age of sixteen with the Diocese of Chicago. During the gathering, he understood that “the Church was bigger than his neighborhood church.” He also discovered the figure of Pier Giorgio Frassati (1901–1925), a young Italian Catholic student, whom John Paul II had beatified in 1990 to make him a model of holiness for young people. His spiritual references became globalized. Ken Hallenius and Josh Noem, who attended the Denver WYD at the age of nineteen and eighteen, respectively, make similar remarks, “I have experienced the Global Church, which is not just a parish,” said Ken, who told me he had prayed the rosary with Hispanics, Filipinos, and Koreans.107 “Before WYD, I had a narrow conception of what the Church was,” said Josh, for whom the vision of the huge multicultural crowds broadened his view of Catholicism: “The stadium was overcrowded. I grew up in a small town. I didn’t know there were so many Catholics [ . . . ]. All these people were faithful Catholics of my age. [ . . . ]. What is the Church? A global institution.”108 The photos that accompany his [End Page 344] memories illustrate this dynamic of the expansion of his Church space, from the small group of pilgrims posing in front of his South Dakota parish to the “sea of pilgrims” converging on Cherry Creek Park.

Maureen Gross discovered in Denver that, “Catholicism is everywhere” and that the heart of what Catholics believe “is the same.” Since the huge rally, she has felt at home everywhere on earth.109 To some extent, for these young Americans, the 1993 WYD played the role the Holy Land pilgrimage played for the middle class Christian American women observed by Hillary Kaell: both pilgrimages helped to free religion from territorial boundaries and to connect believers with other believers from other countries.110

In 1997, the welcome of foreign delegations in the French dioceses also contributed to opening up the ecclesial space. In the diocese of Limoges, where a group of Burkinabe pilgrims had been received, fifteen young Catholics decided to go to Burkina Faso for Christmas.111

Cultural Diversity Education

During WYDs, the broadening affiliation to the Catholic Church went hand in hand with a positive approach to cultural diversity. In this sense, they participate in the global diffusion of multiculturalism as an educational and political framework.112 Denver WYD organizers wanted to multiply cross-cultural experiences to combat racist behavior: “While we are continually striving to help all believers reestablish their familiarity with their own cultural roots, we should take advantage of this time to help our local communities understand and appreciate the gifts of other cultures.”113 Those in charge of the Paris WYD set similar objectives: “[transl.] By giving the universal the human face of true encounters, thus demystifying ‘fear of the stranger,’ WYDs will be able to affirm the urgent need to welcome difference in joy and hope.” Their Toronto WYD counterparts theorized that the religious heritage appropriation allowed an openness to difference: “Cultures and religions from all parts of the earth live together in harmony in Toronto. There is a great human richness and a strong [End Page 345] innovative spirit. This is a challenge for tolerance, peaceful coexistence, mutual respect, and also for the maintenance of solid roots in each individual’s traditional values.”114

According to the testimonies that I collected, which were not representative from a quantitative point of view, but sufficiently diversified to indicate a trend, the consolidation of religious identity made possible by WYDs seemed to favor young Catholics’ acceptance of the convictional and cultural diversity of the globalized world. In Denver, Sarah Jarzembowski, who was eighteen years old in 1993, discovered that “despite the difference of languages, it was possible to communicate.” At the Manila WYD, an English-speaking European participant temporarily left her civilizational area: “What impressed me and will remain alive in my soul for the rest of my life is the opportunity I had to get in touch with people and experience their everyday lives. [ . . . ]. Discovering, making connections with new civilizations, cultures, and habits so different is simply wonderful.”115

During the Paris WYD, a journalist who spent the night at the Longchamp racecourse, where pilgrims flocked for the final weekend, told how young people fraternized in small groups made up informally, but with a concern for the diversity of nationalities. Everyone communicated with bits of English, Spanish, or French, but above all through music and gestures.116 Of course, this did not mean that all the pilgrims had intercultural experiences. Pierre Morissette, a Catholic from Quebec City who hosted two Italians (a father and son) for the 2002 WYD, was disappointed that his guests arrived with their pasta rations for the whole week to avoid eating Canadian food.117 Josh Noem is not sure he established relationships with strangers in Denver. It was the first time in his life that he had been with people who spoke a different language and he knew only basic Spanish learned in high school.118 Moreover, in a context of promiscuity or fatigue, differences could be perceived negatively, especially since WYDs brought together young people from nations that sometimes had conflicting relationships.

This could give rise to difficulties. At the 1989 WYD, Nijolė Sadūnaitė, a Lithuanian Catholic nun who had experienced the gulag, refused to get on the same bus as two young Russian pilgrims, including [End Page 346] the granddaughter of Andrei Sakharov, a famous dissident. One of her companions told her that, as a Christian, she could not behave in this way. Sadūnaitė was convinced and spoke with the two young Russians.119 She was received with them by John Paul II in Santiago. In 1991, some young Soviets, who arrived three days earlier than expected, took advantage of their presence in Poland to sell the caviar they had carried in their luggage and they refused to walk the last few kilometers to their campsite. Commenting on the incident, Polish television criticized the fact that “[transl.] some good Poles can travel up to 600 kilometers to see the Pope, while some of their Soviet brothers had obviously come to Czestochowa more to sell than to pray.”120 In 1997 in Paris, young Italian pilgrims twice denied Italian-speaking Albanians access to St. Ambrose Church, where a catechism in Italian was organized.

But in most cases, the meeting of young people from nations in conflict with each other took place without tension. At the Manila WYD, the Irish delegate of the youth forum, Julia Multigan, was positively surprised that the posters made by the Irish, the English, and the Scots were displayed side by side, without anyone being surprised.121 At the Paris WYD, Bishop André Lacrampe (Ajaccio, Corsica) witnessed a reconciliation process between the Korean and Japanese delegations, who took advantage of the gathering to look back on “[transl.] their history that has created a wall of hatred and division.”122

These huge rallies thus contributed to overcoming some racist or ethnic prejudices. Ken Hallenius appreciated the fact that not all Catholics were Caucasians.123 Ayoung Filipino pilgrim who befriended young Spaniards at the Manila WYD wrote that he realized that their experiences were close to his own. He expressed his feelings with a phrase borrowed from Oliver Stone’s film Heaven and Earth (1993), which told the love story between an American soldier and a Vietnamese girl during the Vietnam War: “Different skin but the same sufferings.”124 Another of his compatriots, Adonis Guangsing, present at the vigil with the Pope at Luneta Park in Manila, spoke with Australian pilgrims. Without many words being exchanged, he discovered “that he could give his trust to someone who was a [End Page 347] stranger.” Later, when he settled in France, this experience was useful to overcome his negative image of Western behavior.125

Regarding openness to religious diversity, the testimonies contain fewer elements. Nevertheless, these words of a French participant at the 1991 WYD can be noted. During the preparatory march that led Parisian pilgrims to the Basilica of Saint-Denis, she met a Muslim who asked her about Augustine of Hippo and said, “You know, we are all men . . . ” The young pilgrim considered this encounter as “one of the first blessings of this pilgrimage marked with the seal of the universal.”126 At the Manila ’95 WYD, the youth forum Sudanese delegate said she had found the key to “solving complicated issues in a religiously diverse environment.”127 In both cases, consolidation of the Catholic identity seemed to go hand in hand with an openness to other convictions. For this reason, WYD was probably part of a model that combined strong religious identity with positive recognition of social pluralism, a model that, according to Giovanni Miccoli, characterized John Paul II’s pontificate.128 In this sense, these festivals did not fit easily into Peter Beyer and Richard Robertson’s typology. According to these two sociologists, in the face of the cultural and religious diversity resulting from globalization, religions could either lock themselves into a fundamentalist posture and participate in cultural communities withdrawing into themselves, or agree to be relativized and aim at harmonizing differences.129 WYDs also seem to illustrate Saba Mahmood’s theory according to which “the ideal of interfaith equality might require not the bracketing of religious differences but their ethical thematization as a necessary risk when the conceptual and political resources of the state have proved inadequate to the challenge this ideal sets before us.”130

Becoming a Global Citizen

Beyond the awareness of common humanity, WYDs also developed openness towards global issues. Before and after the Sydney WYD, [End Page 348] organized in 2008 under Benedict XVI’s pontificate, a sociological survey of English speaking pilgrims showed that participation in the rally increased the motivation to do more civic activities: to give some time as a volunteer in a helping organization (47 percent of the sample), to give more money to welfare charity organizations (32 percent), to get involved with a group working for social justice (29 percent), and to do more to look after the environment (25 percent).131 Such data are not available for John Paul II’s WYDs, but such changes can be observed through interviews with former participants. In Denver, Sarah Jarzembowski talked with young Bosnian pilgrims. It made the Yugoslav wars (that she had heard about in the media) concrete: “People were really suffering. These people were becoming real.” The Denver WYD was a fundamental step in her commitment to social justice and developed her compassion for the sufferings of the world.132 Manila WYD Youth forum delegates had a similar experience. At the end of the festival, they committed “to build peace within [them]selves and the world by bridging the gap between races, religions, the rich and the poor, the laity and the hierarchy, the young and old and pledge [them]selves to respect the unique characteristics of each other.”133 Awareness of the “selfishness” of rich countries, insensitive to the problems of poor countries, was mentioned in many testimonies written just after the gathering.134 Many Filipino volunteers, who welcomed several foreign young people who came to help for a few weeks or months, became more “global-minded”: this international cooperation “has been an experience of bridging the gap between nations, making the world a relatively smaller and friendlier place to live in.”135

WYD also provoked endorsement of forms of supranationalism. For Agnieszka Janowska-Mikusek, who was seventeen when she took part in the Czestochowa ’91 WYD, the spectacle of pilgrims from different countries dancing freely and joyfully in the streets was a foretaste of her personal openness, and of the openness of her country, Poland, to Western Europe and to the whole world: “[transl.] this meeting [End Page 349] profoundly changed my vision of the world, my view of European integration, which at the time was only just beginning.”136



The study of John Paul II’s WYDs enriches the discussion on the dynamics of the contemporary globalization. In their case, religion was a major factor in the decompartmentalization of the world, in the same way as technological and economic innovations or political liberalization. These youth religious festivals not only benefitted from the erasure of borders, they actively participated in the process. Preparing the WYDs generated information flows as well as ideas and practice transfers among the organizing countries. They contributed to shape a networked Catholicism. Their organization gave young people who had never been abroad the chance to meet people from other countries. They promoted cross-border mobility of young people from the former communist bloc, and then of young people from the Global South. They were an opportunity to learn how to live in a multicultural world. They turned some of their participants into “global citizens.” In this, they had a similar effect to that of the International Young Catholic Students in the 1950s.137

John Paul II’s WYDs enable us to counterbalance the claims that religions were backing antiglobalism at the end of the twentieth century. Indeed, their goal did not conflict with the secular values that fueled the opening of borders. To use the words of Thomas Tweed, WYDs were not only about dwelling but also about crossing.138 They rooted young adults in an identity while enabling them to cross cultural, ethnic and spatial frontiers. In this respect, they were both in tune and in dissonance with the cosmopolitan project of liberal modernity. WYDs confirm what was analysed by Ivan Strenski in another context139: Christian experience can be the basis for adherence to internationalism and supranationalism. [End Page 350]

John Paul II’s WYDs aimed to disconnect globalization from utilitarian and materialistic values in order to link it with the universal principles of the dignity and unity of the human family. In this respect, one may wonder whether there was not a contradiction for the Catholic Church in using economic globalization as a means while seeking to challenge it. Significantly, in Denver, the huge screens broadcasting the Pope’s images were framed by giant advertisements for three international brands: Marlboro, United Airlines, and Coca-Cola. Were the young international pilgrims more affected by the invitation to consume these products or by the Pope’s words urging them not to give in to the search for personal profit? This is in line with the critical reflections of Michaël Budde,140 David Lyon,141 Manuel Vasquez, and Marie Marquardt on Catholicism embracing the techniques of the culture industries. Through a contagion effect, the Pope would have given value to the brands and the brands would have linked John Paul II to the world of commodities.142 That said, we can also look at things from the other direction, and argue that Christianity, the religion of the Incarnation, has always used human means to communicate its message. [End Page 351]

Charles Mercier

Dr Charles Mercier is an associate professor of modern history at the University of Bordeaux (France) affiliated to the Laboratoire Cultures Éducation Société (LACES EA7437). He is also a member of the Institut universitaire de France. He was a Geortetown University’s Berkley Center visiting researcher from February to June 2018. Mercier has written or edited ten books, including René Rémond, une traversée du XXe siècle (2018). Mercier received his Ph.D. in history from Paris 1-Panthéon Sorbonne University in 2011.


* The beginning of this work was presented in April 2019 at the conference “Global History and Catholicism” held at the University of Notre Dame (Indiana, USA). I am most grateful for the feedback I received from the audience there and for the financial support from the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism. The paper is part of a 5-years project “Youths and Religions in a Global and Secular Age” (YOUR), funded by the Institut Universitaire de France (2017–2022).

This work was supported by the Institut Universitaire de France and the University of Notre Dame’s Cushwa center for the Study of American Catholicism.

1. Roland Robertson, “Globalization Theory and Civilization Analysis,” Comparative Civilization Review, no. 17 (1987): 20–30.

2. Ralph Buultjens, “Global History and the Third World,” in Conceptualizing Global History, ed. Bruce Mazlish and Ralph Buultjens (Boulder: Westview Press, 1993), 72.

3. Akira Iriye, Global Community: The Role of International Organizations in the Making of the Contemporary World (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), 15.

4. Immanuel Maurice Wallerstein, The Modern World-System (New York: Academic Press, 1974).

5. Roland Robertson and Joann Chirico, “Humanity, Globalization, and Worldwide Religious Resurgence: A Theoretical Exploration,” Sociological Analysis 46, no. 3 (1985): 219–242; Peter Beyer, Religion and Globalization (London: Sage Publications, 1994); Anthony Gerald Hopkins, “Globalization: An Agenda for Historians,” ed. Anthony Gerald Hopkins (New York: Norton & Company, 2002), 4; Buultjens, “Global History and the Third World,” 72.

6. Gil Anidjar, “Of Globalatinology,” Derrida Today, no. 6.1 (2013): 11–22.

7. Jacques Derrida, “Above All, No Journalists,” in Religion and Media, ed. Hent de Vries and Samuel Weber (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001).

8. John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, A Future Perfect: The Challenge and Promise of Globalization (New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2003).

9. Roland Robertson, “Antiglobal Religion,” in Global Religions: An Introduction, ed. Mark Juergensmeyer (Cary: Oxford University Press, 2003), 110–123.

10. Kofi Annan, “The Backlash Against Globalism,” The Futurist, March 1999, 27.

11. Vincent Viaene, “Nineteenth-Century Catholic Internationalism and Its Predecessor,” in Religious Internationals in the Modern World, ed. Abigail Green and Vincent Viaene (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), 82–100.

12. J. Michelle Molina, To Overcome Oneself: The Jesuit Ethic and Spirit of Global Expansion (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2013), 4.

13. John T. McGreevy, American Jesuits and the World: How an Embattled Religious Order Made Modern Catholicism Global (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016), 210–223.

14. José Casanova and Thomas F. Banchoff, “Introduction,” in The Jesuits and Globalization: Historical Legacies and Contemporary Challenges, ed. José Casanova and Thomas F. Banchoff (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 2016), 21.

15. I couldn’t access the Argentinean archives.

16. Jean-Loup Chappelet, Le système olympique (Grenoble: PUG, 1991), 15.

17. Interview with the author, 2 May 2018.

18. Laura Moreno and Gustavo Mangich’s report, Archives of the Pontifical Council for the Laity (hereafter cited as APCL), Czestochowa 1996/4.

19. L’Avvenire, 28 June 1987, 23.

20. Card. Pironio to Catholic bishops, 1987, APCL, 1987; Osservatore Romano, 9 April 1987, 2.

21. Conseil pontifical pour les laïcs, Que Cherchez-Vous Jeunes Pèlerins? Jean-Paul II à Santiago de Compostela, 1989 (Vatican: Service de documentation du Vatican, 1991), 8–9.

22. Tambuli Ng Maralita, 11 December 1994.

23. Paris WYD’s presentation file, 26 June 1997, Archives nationales [France] (hereafter cited as AN), 19980232.

24. IV Jornada Mundial de La Juventud: Santiago de Compostela, Agosto, 1989 (Santiago de Compostela: Archbishopric, 1990).

25. Jean-Pierre Augustin and Pascal Gillon, L’Olympisme: bilan et enjeux géopolitiques (Paris: Armand Colin, 2004), 35.

26. Régis Benichi and Pascal Lamy, Histoire de la mondialisation (Paris: Vuibert, 2008), 154–174.

27. Olivier Dehoorne, Pascal Saffache, and Corina Tatar, “Le tourisme international dans le monde: logiques des flux et confins de la touristicité,” Études caribéennes, no. 9–10 (September 2008).

28. Bertrand Blancheton, Histoire de la mondialisation (Brussels: De Boeck, 2008), 64.

29. P. Morillon to the Directeur Général des Douanes, 30 July 1997, AN, 19980232.

30. N. Hébert to M. Lévy, 2 July 1996, Archives of the Institut Jean-Marie Lustiger (hereafter cited as AIJML), 257.32.

31. Table of registrations, 26 June 1997, AN, 19980232.

32. José Casanova, “Globalizing Catholicism and the Return to a ‘Universal Church’,” in Transnational Religion and Fading States, ed. Susanne Hoeber Rudolph and James P. Piscatori (Boulder: Westview Press, 1997), 121–143; José Casanova, “Global Catholicism and the Politics of Civil Society,” Sociological Inquiry 66, no. 3 (1996): 424–425.

33. Blancheton, Histoire de la mondialisation, 50.

34. PCL staff to Catholic movement leaders, 5 December 1986, ACPL, 1987.

35. Report from one of the local players (named Carmen), 6 October 1989, Historical Archives of the Archdiocese of Santiago de Compostela (hereafter cited as HAASC), 1.54, 1387–1989.

36. Memorandum, HAASC, 1.54, 1313–1989.

37. Marian Duda, “VI S wiatowy Dzien Młodzieży Częstochowa ’91 Spotkanie Młodych Wschodu i Zachodu (6th World Youth Day in Częstochowa ’91 Meeting of Young People from East and West),” Veritati et Caritati 3 (2014): 247–267.

38. WYD Media Guide, Archives of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (hereafter cited as ACCCB), A 325.

39. Quoted by: Dorota Narewska, “Office and Charism in the Mediasphere, Two Narrations on the 6th World Youth Day (Czestochowa),” in World Youth Days: ATestimony to the Hope of Young People, ed. Józef Stala and Andrzej Porębski (Kraków: Pontifical University of John Paul II in Krakow Press, 2016), 61–62.

40. Derrida, “Above All, No Journalists,” 89.

41. Andrzej Dragula, “Carnival of Faith? World Youth Day as a Religious Festival,” in World Youth Days: A Testimony to the Hope of Young People, ed. Józef Stala and Andrzej Porębski (Kraków: Pontifical University of John Paul II in Krakow Press, 2016), 275.

42. CNN, The Pope in America, 1993. VHS available at the Archives of the University of Notre Dame (hereafter cited as AUND).

43. Report from Maryann Schaeffer, APCL, Czestochowa 1996/5. In this sense, WYDs also took part in celebrity culture which developed in the 1980s, the pope being the hero of the pilgrims. However, John Paul II played an original role, which was different from that of politicians on campaign or singing stars on tour. It was characterized by an attention to people as well as a certain freedom from protocol and cameras.

44. Scorecard, 15 December 1992, Archives of the Catholic University of America (hereafter cited as ACUA), WYD, 4, 38.

45. John T. McGreevy, Catholicism and American Freedom: A History (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2003), 250–281.

46. Pathway [Manila WYD’s Internal Magazine], no. 2, Archives of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (hereafter cited as ACBCP), Papal Visit, 2.

47. Interview of J. Michalik, 29 January 2008, Medialne Archiwum Jana Pawła II (The Media Archives of John Paul II),

48. Notes from P. Henderson, [n.d.], ACUA, WYD, 3, 11.

49. David Lyon, Jesus in Disneyland: Religion in Postmodern Times (Cambridge: Blackwell Publishers, 2000).

50. Manuel A. Vásquez and Marie F. Marquardt, Globalizing the Sacred: Religion Across the Americas (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2003), 57.

51. Valentina Ciciliot, “Le Beatificazioni e Le Canonizzazioni Di Giovanni Paolo II,” Humanitas 65, no. 1 (2010): 120; Kathleen Sprows Cummings, A Saint of Our Own: How the Quest for a Holy Hero Helped Catholics Become American (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2019).

52. D. Schnurr to Arthur E. Gil Lamadrid, 28 February 1993, ACUA, WYD, 1, 42.

53. Minutes of bishops’ plenary meeting, 8–10 July 1994, ACBCP.

54. Agnès Casado, “Le pèlerinage des jeunes à Luján (Argentine) durant la dictature militaire,” in Politiques du pèlerinage du xvie Siècle à nos Jours, ed. Jérôme Grévy, Luc Chantre, and Paul d’Hollander (Rennes: PUR, 2014), 191–192.

55. Conseil pontifical pour les laïcs, Que Cherchez-Vous Jeunes Pèlerins?, 9.

56. M. Duda, interview with the author, 23 October 2018.

57. Pro memoria/Visit of WYD Staff to the PCL, n.d. [June 1992], ACUA, WYD, 3, 11.

58. P. Henderson, interview with the author, 2 May 2018.

59. L. C. Wenke to P. Henderson, 19 March 1992, ACUA, WYD, 3, 39.

60. D. Schnurr, interview with the author, 2 May 2018.

61. Roderick Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind: Fifth Edition (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2014).

62. World Youth Day ’93 Resource Manual, AUND, WYD, 1.

63. Peter Brown, The Cult of the Saints: Its Rise and Function in Latin Christianity (University of Chicago Press, 2009).

64. World Youth Day ’95 Program and Liturgy Guide Book, ACBCP.

65. F. Duthel, interview with the author, 25 June 2015.

66. Manuel Castells, End of Millenium (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010).

67. Phillip Berryman, “Churches as Winners and Losers in the Network Society,” Journal of Interamerican Studies and World Affairs 41, no. 4 (1999): 21–34.

68. Memorandum of the Paris WYD committee meeting, 3 and 4 March 1995, Archives of the Emmanuel Community (hereafter cited as ACE), 96 W 26.

69. Memorandum of the meeting, n.d., ACCCB, D461.

70. APCL, Czestochowa 1996.

71. François Vayne, Ariane Rollier, and Renato Boccardo, Jean-Paul II, Les Jeunes et Les JMJ, Entretiens Avec Mgr Boccardo (Paris: Parole et silence, 2005), 22.

72. Micklethwait and Wooldridge, A Future Perfect, 268.

73. Max L. Stackhouse, “Globalization and Christian Ethics,” in The Globalization of Ethics: Religious and Secular Perspectives, ed. William Sullivan and Will Kymlicka (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 54–65.

74. Vásquez and Marquardt, Globalizing the Sacred, 181–189.

75. Jean-Paul II, Ecclesia in America, 22 January 1999, 20. Available online on the Vatican’s website as well as all the other pontifical documents quoted hereafter.

76. Jean-Paul II, message for the 1st January 2000 World Day of Peace, 8 December 2000.

77. Jean-Paul II, Ecclesia in America, 22 January 1999, 20.

78. Jean-Paul II, La Croix, 20 August 1997, 9.

79. Jean-Paul II, message for the 1st January 2000 World Day of Peace.

80. Buultjens, “Global History and the Third World,” 73.

81. John Paul II, Letter on the occasion of the seminar on World Youth Days in Czestochowa, 8 May 1996.

82. Alain Caillé and Stéphane Dufoix, “Introduction: le moment global des sciences sociales,” in Le tournant global des sciences sociales, ed. Alain Caillé and Stéphane Dufoix (Paris: la Découverte, 2013), 11.

83. Osservatore Romano, 8–9 avril 1985.

84. Conseil pontifical pour les laïcs, Que Cherchez-Vous Jeunes Pèlerins?, 6.

85. Address during the vigil, 14 August 1991.

86. John Paul II, message for the VIII WYD, 15 August 1992.

87. Concerning the way religious traditions can endorse and support universal human rights, see: Will Kymlicka, “Introduction,” in The Globalization of Ethics: Religious and Secular Perspectives, ed. William Sullivan and Will Kymlicka (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 4–5.

88. John Paul II, message for the XII WYD, 15 August 1996.

89. Lynette Shultz, “Educating for Global Citizenship: Conflicting Agendas and Understandings,” Alberta Journal of Educational Research 53, no. 3 (2007).

90. Christine Pedotti and Anthony Favier, Jean Paul II: l’ombre du saint (Paris, France: Albin Michel, 2020), 115–129.

91. Address during the vigil, 19 August 2000.

92. Stackhouse, “Globalization and Christian Ethics,” 69.

93. J. Cordes, interview by the author, 12 December 2016.

94. M. Duda, interview with the author, 23 October 2010.

95. Narewska, “Office and Charism in the Mediasphere . . . ,” 63–64.

96. Duda, “VI S wiatowy Dzien Młodzieży Częstochowa ’91 . . .”

97. Narewska, “Office and Charism in the Mediasphere . . .,” 66.

98. Duda, “VI S wiatowy Dzien Młodzieży Częstochowa ’91 . . .”

99. S. Nowak, interview with the author, 24 October 2018.

100. Ibid.

101. B. Peyrous, interview with the author, 13 March 2017.

102. M. Bedeschi, interview with the author, 2 February 2017.

103. Minutes of bishops’ plenary meeting, 4–9 November 1996, Centre national des Archives de l’Église de France (hereafter cited as CNAEF).

104. Report by L. Champenois, 17 January 1997, AN, 19980232.

105. Minutes of meeting, 24 January 1997, AN, 19980232.

106. Pathway, 2, [Manila WYD’s Internal Magazine], ACBCP, Papal visit.

107. K. Hallenius, interview with the author, 21 February 2018.

108. J. Noem, interview with the author, 22 February 2018.

109. M. Gross, interview with the author, 14 May 2018.

110. Hillary Kaell, Walking Where Jesus Walked: American Christians and Holy Land Pilgrimage (New York: NYU Press, 2014), 14.

111. Minutes of Bishops’ plenary meeting, 4–10 November 1997, 268, CNAEF.

112. Will Kymlicka, Multicultural Odysseys: Navigating the New International Politics of Diversity (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2007), 3.

113. “World Youth Day ’93 Resource Manual,” AUND, CWYD.

114. I Care, March 2002, no. 12.

115. APCL, Czestochowa 1996, 5.

116. Evening TV News, France 2, 24 August 1997. Archives of the Institut national de l’audiovisuel (INA).

117. P. Morissette, interview with the author, 8 January 2015.

118. J. Noem, interview with the author, 22 February 2018.

119. B. Peyrous, interview with the author, 13 March 2017.

120. Libération, 16 August 1991, 23.

121. APCL, Czestochowa 1996, 5.

122. Minutes of the Bishops’ plenary meeting, 4–10 November 1997, 244–245, CNAEF.

123. K. Hallenius, interview with the author, 21 February 2018.

124. APCL, Czestochowa 1996, 5.

125. A. Guangsing, interview with the author, 29 March 2017.

126. Revue Saint-Joseph d’Allex, no. 901, November–December 1991, 6.

127. APCL, Czestochowa 1996, 5.

128. Giovanni Miccoli, Le pontificat de Jean-Paul II, un gouvernement contrasté (Brussels: Lessius, 2012), 349.

129. Beyer, Religion and Globalization, 29–30.

130. Saba Mahmood, Religious Difference in a Secular Age: A Minority Report (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016), 213.

131. R. Webber, “Religious Involvement and Civic Engagement of World Youth Day Attenders” [Paper Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, Denver CO, October 2009], available online.

132. S. Jarzembowski, interview with the author, 11 May 2018.

133. ACBCP, Papal Visit, 3.

134. Testimony from D. Silva, APCL, Czestochowa 1996, 5.

135. Pathway [Manila WYD’s internal magazine], no. 2. ACBCP, Papal Visit, 2.

136. Marian Duda, ed., VI Swiatowy Dzien Mlodziezy. Owocowanie 1991–2016 (6th World Youth Day. An Idea Comes to Fruiton 1991–2016), vol. 4 (Czestochowa: Wyzszego Instytutu Teologicznego w Czestochowie, 2016), 506.

137. Charles-Edouard Harang, Quand les jeunes catholiques découvrent le monde: les mouvements catholiques de jeunesse: de la colonisation à la coopération, 1920–1991 (Paris: Cerf, 2010), 108–109.

138. Thomas A. Tweed, Crossing and Dwelling: ATheory of Religion (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2006).

139. Ivan Strenski, “The Religion in Globalization,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 72, no. 3 (2004): 631–652. See also: Stackhouse, “Globalization and Christian Ethics,” 65.

140. Michael L. Budde, “Embracing Pop Culture: The Catholic Church in the World Market,” World Policy Journal 15, no. 1 (1998): 77–87.

141. Lyon, Jesus in Disneyland.

142. Vásquez and Marquardt, Globalizing the Sacred, 192.

Additional Information

Print ISSN
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.