Pope Francis Postpones World Youth Day and Meeting of Families Due to COVID-19

Young pilgrims gather before World Youth Day Panama opening Mass Jan. 22, 2019. Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA.

Pope Francis has decided to postpone by one year World Youth Day and the World Meeting of Families, according to the Vatican. The events were expected to take place during the summers of 2022 and 2021.

World Youth Day, programmed for Lisbon, Portugal in August 2022, will now take place in August 2023, according to an April 20 statement from Matteo Bruni, Holy See press office director.

The World Meeting of Families, previously scheduled to be held in Rome in June 2021, will now happen in June 2022.

Both events usually include the presence of the pope and gather at least tens of thousands of people.

Bruni said Pope Francis’ decision to move the dates of the global gatherings was “due to the current health situation and its consequences on the movement and aggregation of young people and families.”


The pope made the decision together with the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life, which is responsible for organizing the events.

World Youth Day, which is typically held every three years, last took place in Panama in January 2019, drawing an estimated 700,000 young Catholics. The youth gathering was started by St. Pope John Paul II in 1985. At some past World Youth Days attendance has reached into the millions.

The theme of World Youth Day in Lisbon in 2023 is “Mary arose and went with haste.”

The bishops' local organizing committee for World Youth Day in Portugal put out a statement April 20 saying it welcomes the pope's decision to postpone the event.

The committee said it shares "with the Holy Father the call that, in the current context and in the coming time, the focus of everyone's attention is on caring for the most vulnerable, families, and all who, for very different reasons, suffer from the effects of the pandemic caused by COVID-19."

More in Vatican

In 1994, St. Pope John Paul II established the World Meeting of Families, which also takes place every three years in a different country. The most recent meeting was held in Dublin, Ireland in 2018.

The event, now moved to June 2022, has the theme: “Family Love: a vocation and a path to holiness.”


Hannah Brockhaus is Catholic News Agency's senior Rome correspondent. She grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and has a degree in English from Truman State University in Missouri.