Another World Youth Day has come and gone. Even now, pilgrims are making their way back to their homes, no doubt ablaze with the Holy Spirit and rearing to share the Gospel with all they encounter.
World Youth Day 2016 took place in Krakow, Poland July 25-31. The theme for the event was taken from the Gospel of Matthew: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Mt 5:7).The gathering opened with Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, Archbishop of Krakow, addressing the young people there and encouraging them to keep their hearts and minds open to what the Lord would reveal to them over the week.
“Let us share our faith, our experiences, our hopes,” he said. “My dear young friends, may these days be an opportunity to form your hearts and minds.”
Nearly 800 pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Denver attended World Youth Day, and local Catholic speakers Chris Stefanick and Jason Evert acted as hosts of EWTN’s coverage of the event.
Pope Francis arrived to Krakow on July 27. His welcoming ceremony took place at Wawel Royal Castle in Krakow, during which he told the youth to display their Christian faith in full force, using the word “chaos.”
“You must do your duty and make chaos all night. Show your Christian joy, the joy the Lord gave you to be in the community who follows Jesus,” the Holy Father said.
The Pope had a booked week in Poland, between the World Youth Day activities and other visits he was scheduled to make. Some of the highlights of his time in Poland included visiting sick children at a children’s hospital and an unscheduled stop at a Franciscan monastery that housed relics of two martyrs, Blessed Zbigniew Strzalkowski and Blessed Michal Tomaszek. He prayed for peace and an end to violence, most likely in response to the brutal murder of French priest Father Jacques Hamel at the hands of ISIS that occurred just a few days earlier.
Another particularly powerful moment of the Pope’s time in Poland came when he visited the World War II extermination camp at Auschwitz. He prayed in silence while there, and visited the cell of St. Maximillian Kolbe, a Franciscan friar who volunteered to die in the place of a stranger while detained at Auschwitz during World War II.
Later, the Pope addressed the youth from the balcony at the bishop’s palace in Krakow, stating that the cruelty that occurred at Auschwitz still exists today in the world, and urging the youth the pray for those who suffer throughout the world.
At the Saturday night vigil, the Pontiff warned young people against “sofa-happiness,” stating that in prioritizing ease and convenience, we confuse “happiness with consumption” and “end up paying a high price indeed: we lose our freedom.”
No one is insignificant. [God] loves all of us with a special love; for him, all of us are important. You are important.”
He said “Jesus is the Lord of risk” and is “calling you to leave your mark on history.”
“God comes to break open everything that keeps you closed in. He is encouraging you to dream. He wants to make you see that, with you, the world can be different,” Pope Francis told the youth. “For the fact is, unless you offer the best of yourselves, the world will never be different.”
During the closing Mass at Blonia Park in Krakow, which is historically referred to as the high point of World Youth Day, Pope Francis assured the some three million Catholics in attendance: “No one is insignificant.”
“He loves all of us with a special love; for him all of us are important. You are important,” the Holy Father said. “He believes in us even more than we believe in ourselves. He is always cheering us on; he is our biggest fan.”
Following the closing Mass, Pope Francis announced that the next World Youth Day will take place in Panama in 2019.
Featured photo: © L’Osservatore Romano