John Paul II and the Denver 'Miracle'

The 1993 World Youth Day in Denver was a watershed moment for the Church in the U.S. John Paul II launched the youth of America on a mission of 'New Evangelization'.
by Randall J. Meissen, LC | Source:

When the Vatican announced that World Youth Day would be held in Denver in 1993, many news experts predicted that the event would be a failure.  The United States, they said, was different than countries like Poland and Argentina, where previous World Youth Days had met great success.

The United States, they claimed, lacked an entrenched tradition of Catholic pilgrimage, the traveling distances required to assemble a large gathering from across the country were too large, and most importantly American young people would simply be uninterested in the pope or his message.

On August 10, 1993, stunned reporters crumpled their pre-written article drafts while John Paul II started a new page in history.

As the pope’s helicopter circled over mile high stadium in Denver just prior to the opening ceremony, it was buffeted by forceful waves of applause from the gathered crowd of young people, a crowd that would eventually swell to the number of a half-million.
The Holy Father greeted his youthful crowd with an explosive message.

 “Jesus has called each one of you to Denver for a purpose: You must live these days in such a way that, when the time comes to return home, each one of you will have a clearer idea of what Christ expects of you. Each one must have the courage to go and spread the Good News … among young people of your own age, who will take the church and society into the next century.”

In retrospect, world youth day in Denver was a turning point for the Catholic Church in America.  In answer to the pope’s challenge to go forth and spread the gospel, thousands of initiatives at the local and diocesan level sprang up in the subsequent months and years.  From Denver, the pope had launched what he termed “the New Evangelization”. 

About the Author:
Brother Randall Meissen, LC, is author of the book
Living Miracles: The Spiritual Sons of John Paul the Great. He podcasts on John Paul 2 at and can be contacted at rmeissen(at)

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