Pope Francis in Poland for World Youth Day
Pope Francis arrived in Poland on Wednesday to take part in the World Youth Day festival, a series of events organized by the Roman Catholic Church.
He was welcomed at the southern city of Cracow’s St. John Paul II Airport by President Andrzej Duda and his wife. Then he headed to the city’s Wawel Castle to deliver a speech to diplomats and civil authorities.
During his speech, the Pope said he was happy to start his first visit to Central and Eastern Europe with Poland, the motherland of John Paul II. He referred to Poland’s Christian traditions, the Polish church’s reconciliation with its German counterpart and a declaration signed with Eastern Orthodox churches. He also appealed for readiness to accept refugees fleeing war and hunger.
On Thursday, July 28 the pope is to deliver a mass marking the 1050th anniversary of Poland’s Baptism. After returning to Cracow the pope will officially join young people taking part in World Youth Day.
The program also includes pope’s visits to Jasna Gora shrine in Czestochowa and the grounds of the former Nazi extermination camp Auschwitz-Birkenau on Friday, where he is expected to deliver a speech.
In the morning of July 30, the pope is to travel to the Divine Mercy Sanctuary in Lagiewniki, outside Cracow, where, among others, he will celebrate a mass together with celebrants, consecrated persons and Polish seminary students. In the evening the pope will take part, together with young people, in a vigil at Campus Misericordiae in Brzegi, near Poland’s Wieliczka salt mine, outside Cracow.
The event will culminate with Sunday morning Mass with the pope at Campus Misericordiae.
Before leaving Poland, the pope will also meet with WYD volunteers and members of the WYD organising committee.
The pope’s departure will be preceded by a short farewell ceremony at the Balice airport.
World Youth Day is expected to attract nearly two million people from all over the world. They will be accompanied by 47 cardinals, 800 bishops and 20,000 priests.
Some 356,000 people from 187 countries have confirmed their participation in the event. Apart from registered groups, organizers expect that many people will come to WYD spontaneously, especially for the meeting with the Pope at Campus Misericordiae where the number of pilgrims may reach some 1.5 million people.
World Youth Day is the largest recurring gathering of youth in the Catholic Church. It was established by St. John Paul II in 1985. The first event was held in Rome in 1986. Since then it has occurred, every three years, in various cities throughout the world.
The last event was held three years ago in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.