26/07 - 31/07/2016



WYD for me is a great gift.

2016-07-26 / News

World Youth Day in Krakow has begun today thanks to years of preparation and months of hard work. Thousands of young people walked through the streets of Krakow to take part in the Opening Mass at Błonia fields.

The youth danced and sang, waving national flags with unconcealed joy. Above all, they praised God with that joy. On the streets of Krakow you could see pilgrims and volunteers from all over the world and you could hear well-known songs in different languages. They all had one purpose - the Opening Ceremony - which culminated with Holy Mass led by Cardinal Dziwisz.

“World Youth Day is an incredible  experience. I can’t believe what I see and hear. When I walk the city streets, everyone is smiling at me, and everyone is nice and pleasant to others. We are no longer anonymous passers-by who are constantly rushing to get somewhere. I see that young people have become role models for older, passive and worn-out people. The Opening Ceremony is today. We have waited many years for this moment. There is a heated atmosphere. Today we have become a one, multinational family”, says Izabela Waśniowska, a volunteer from Krakow.

Young pilgrims started to gather at Błonia in the afternoon. Despite worsening weather conditions, the smiles on the pilgrims' faces did not fade away. The thunder and lightning did not scare them away. The rain coats included in the Pilgrim Package came in especially handy. At 3:00pm the Chaplet of Divine Mercy was prayed in a number of different languages, and the official torch of youth was passed forward.

“It is amazing that young people meet in one place to be together, to pray together and they don't mind bad weather, even torrential rain. I can't wait for WYD to begin, I'm so excited!,” exclaims Suneeth Fernandez from Australia.

“I attended WYD in Sydney and Madrid as a pilgrim. I was searching for a place where I could experience God's presence in a new way. I wanted to experience God's Mercy at work, so I became a volunteer. I am really excited that WYD is about to start in a moment. Yesterday I met a group from my own parish and I told them how volunteers are preparing for this event and how we can't wait for it all to begin. Now that the groups are finally arriving in Krakow, the atmosphere has changed a lot. They walk through the streets and they wave flags. You can feel the excitement in the air. I am really happy that I live in the country where John Paul II lived. He is a very important figure for me and for my faith. When I think about his being here, proclaiming Divine Mercy in this place, I feel very special,” says Tony Rose Lozada, a volunteer from California.

There were many events that preceded the WYD Opening Mass. It all started with the Spark of Divine Mercy being transported from Łagiewniki Sanctuary. The route included important places for John Paul II in Krakow, both before his time as Pope, as well as from his pontificate. The walk was commenced by Sister Gaudia Skass from the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Łagiewniki. Many other people joined this special relay to present the Spark to pilgrims at Błonia fields. The whole route through the sectors and a few testimonies about Karol Wojtyła were presented on large outdoor screens. The time before the ceremony was filled with dancing and singing performances, prepared by Lednica Movement. At the same time the pilgrims had the opportunity to watch short videos about previous World Youth Days, including a video from Czestochowa from 1991, with Jan Góra who was the co-founder of youth meeting idea and the author of the song “Abba Ojcze”.

Not only at Błonia

Simultaneously, at the Franciscan monastery there was a special service to prepare the youth for the Opening Ceremony. The meeting was led by the superior general of the Franciscan order, Father Marco Tasca. The Franciscian music band Fioretti accompanied the prayers with songs. Among many, Italians, Russians and Koreans took part in the service. They worshipped the Cross, said the chaplet and a decade of the Rosary.

“For me WYD started already on Monday, July, 18. During all these days I have served as a volunteer, organizing many evangelisation events,” says Tatiana Sushchevich from Belarus. “Since childhood I have been connected to the spirituality of St. Francis, I work in Franciscan Ministry in Belarus. The leader of our group took to this prayer today,” she adds.

During the service Father Marco Tasca spoke about the painting of Merciful Jesus. He asked the faithful to continuously gaze at the merciful face of Jesus. After singing joyful songs father Marco Tasca with other participants went to Błonia to take part in the Opening Ceremony.

The seminarians from Łódź have also arrived to participate in the Opening Mass. Today they are going to serve as ministers of the Holy Communion. They had spent the previous week in Łódź, helping with Days in Dioceses preparations. Now they have come to Krakow to meet with Pope Francis and serve other young people, in many cases their own peers.

“World Youth Day is a great gift for me. I’m happy that I can observe up close all these events. This is my first WYD and I hope it isn’t the last one”, says Karol Kowalik from the Seminary in Łódź.

WYD Symbols among the pilgrims

Just prior to the start of the Holy Mass, the WYD symbols – the Cross and the Icon of the Salus Populi Romani (Protectress of the Roman People) – roamed about Błonia fields between sectors filled with pilgrims. These symbols were passed on by young groups from countries of past World Youth Days, in chronological order. As the symbols travelled, the hymns of each World Youth Day were sung by the choir and the WYD orchestra. The youth processed in shirts bearing the current WYD logo and their respective national flags, starting with Rome's, all the way to Krakow's.

“I was at WYD in Czestochowa right after I finished school. That is why I am now a priest. I love John Paul II, who for my generation is like a father. I came here with young people. We spent one week in a small Polish town, where we met people of deep faith. In France it is not so simple. In our country, there are many people who have distanced themselves from God. This is why I wanted to show them what it means to believe and to be in community. The fact that we are all here together should be a clear sign to the world, that together, we can change things even in these modern times,” says Fr. Camille Rey of France.

The young people of Brazil carried the WYD symbols to the altar and passed them to a group of Poles wearing shirts for this year's youth meeting in Krakow. After decorating a special area of the altar with flowers, they placed the cross and the Icon of the Protectress of the Roman People on it.
“We are united and it is Jesus that unites us. This place unites all the people of the world regardless of skin color, language or culture. I like the atmosphere at Błonia Park. The joy which accompanies the pilgrims is contagious,” says Łukasz Kaczmarek, a cleric from the Diocesan Seminary in Łódź.

Paulina Małota, Izabela Średzińska, Ewelina Słomka, Katarzyna Gruszka
Photo: Paulina Krzyżak, Eryk Markowski, Rafał  Arciszewski, Fabio Beretta

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