Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila speaks during the 20th anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s visit to Denver, Colorado, for World Youth Day 1993, celebrating Mass at the John Paul II Center for the New Evangelization on August 15, 2013, in Denver, Colorado. The event coincided with the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and the pope’s final Mass at Cherry Creek State Park 20 years earlier. (Photo by Daniel Petty/Denver Catholic)
Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila is what one might call a bit of a World Youth Day veteran.
Archbishop Aquila has not missed a single World Youth Day since he became a bishop in 2001. He was also a priest in Denver during Saint John Paul II’s iconic visit to the city for World Youth Day in 1993, and played an integral role in organizing the Holy Father’s visit. He welcomed Pope John Paul II upon his arrival to Denver and introduced him to some of the laypeople and clergy who were there to greet him. He was also responsible for the coordination of the liturgies and Masses.
So, for those keeping track, this year’s World Youth Day in Krakow will mark (at least) the seventh one Archbishop Aquila has attended.
That this year’s World Youth Day is taking place in Saint John Paul II’s homeland of Poland marks a special occasion, especially for Denver Catholics, not only because of the immeasurable impact he had on the Archdiocese of Denver, but also because it is the first World Youth Day to take place in Poland since John Paul II was canonized a saint.
At each World Youth Day, Archbishop Aquila has been invited to be a catechist bishop for the English speakers, which he called “a real privilege.” He said it’s fascinating to see the dialogue that takes place among the young people, and also the influence of the values of each culture present. It really speaks to the universality of the Church, which Archbishop Aquila said is his favorite aspect of World Youth Day.
“For myself, what I find really valuable is the gathering of young people from throughout the world, for them to visually see and encounter the universality of the Church, and for them to be able to meet other young Catholics who are all committed to the faith,” Archbishop Aquila said. “When one sees that kind of witness, it goes so against the culture of the world. The only thing that draws us together is Christ, and nothing else.”