“The clock fitted on the facade of St. Mary's Basilica in the heart of historic Krakow counted the days, hours, minutes and seconds to the moment which we are now experiencing,” said Cardinal Dziwisz as he inaugurated World Youth Day (WYD).
At the beginning of the solemn mass opening WYD, the hymn “Blessed are the merciful” was sung. Later, the Metropolitan Archbishop of Krakow Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz welcomed the pilgrims gathered in Błonia in many languages. He welcomed them to the city of John Paul II, the city where we celebrate the Mystery of Divine Mercy in a special way.
From a pilgrimage of the Spark of Divine Mercy, Fire was lit on the altar to symbolise the warmth and heat of God's love, which inspires internal renewal in each person. This sign is going to accompany the youth throughout all Main Events, and on Sunday, this fire is going to be passed on to them during the Final Mass.
To emphasize the close relationship with the tradition of the Eastern Church, the Gospel was sung both in the Roman and Byzantine-Slavonic rites, thus pointing out the presence of both these traditions in Poland since the beginning of Christianity here.
Referring to the words of the Gospel and Jesus' triple question to Peter about love, Cardinal Dziwisz encouraged the listeners to ask themselves three questions and to seek answers to them. The first one, “Where do we come from?” the cardinal answered himself: “We come from such parts of the world where people live in peace, where families are communities of love and life and where young people can pursue their dreams. But among us are also young people,” the Cardinal continued, “from countries whose people are suffering due to wars and other kinds of conflicts, where children are starving to death and where Christians are brutally persecuted.” He also remarked that everybody brings their own experience of following the Gospel.
Addressing the second question, “Where are we now?,” the Cardinal told the story of Krakow, a former capital city of Poland, which received the light of faith one thousand and fifty years ago. He also mentioned our own personal matters, fears, and longings, and he recommended that we entrust all of them to God.
As far as the third question, “Where are we going?” is concerned, the Cardinal called us to answer it ourselves. At the same time, he encouraged pilgrims to get the best of the time spent here in Krakow. “Listen to the catecheses delivered by the bishops, hear the voice of Pope Francis,” he said.
The pilgrims present remained in high spirits despite the rainy weather. Full of faith on one hand, but with great expectations on the other, they participated in the meeting in Błonia.
“The opening ceremony was magnificent. The best moment was when the sun broke through the clouds and we were able to see the light. It was beautiful,” said Vincent Charmet from France.
At the end of the Eucharist, Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz addressed the youth once again. Each word of his was received warmly and exuberantly. “I wish to thank you for the joy which you bring into our lives through your presence, and you help us to better celebrate the joy arising from belonging to Jesus Christ and the community of the Church.”
On the altar and next to the burning Fire of Mercy were placed the relics of St. Faustina and John Paul II. They were a visible sign of the invisible presence of the Apostles of Mercy. Under an image of the Merciful Jesus and in an area decorated with flowers stood an iconic painting Salus Populi Romani and the cross which John Paul II commended to the youth on Palm Sunday in Rome, 1984, so that they could bring it to the world as a sign of Jesus' love of man.
During the Opening Ceremony, the Choir and Orchestra of WYD performed the popular songs “Witaj pokarmie”, “Skosztujcie i zobaczcie”, “Nie bój się, wypłyń na głębię”, but the greatest enthusiasm was evoked by an unofficial WYD theme song from Rio “Jesus Christ you are my life”.
Photo: Stanisław Wasiutyński