Pilgrims all over the world are arriving for the highly anticipated World Youth Day 2016 (WYD) in Kraków, Poland. Pope Francis will gather with young people from every corner of the world in Pope Saint John Paul II’s home country to celebrate their faith, all while concentrating on this year’s theme, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7).
Pope Francis recently posted a video message on the official WYD Facebook page saying, “Everything will take place under the symbol of mercy in this Jubilee Year, and also in the grateful and devoted memory of St. John Paul II, who was the architect of World Youth Day.”
Over 400,000 young Americans (ages 16-35) are registered to attend, including hundreds of Pennsylvanians. While many young people are registered through their dioceses, some pilgrims are making the journey through different connections.
At 22 years old, Rob Johnson, a parishioner of St. Robert Bellarmine in Warrington, PA, has made arrangements to attend the global celebration with a British group. “Every time the Church organizes one of these events, it brings together people from all around the world, united through the bonds of Catholicism and their common faith in Jesus Christ,” Johnson stated, “It demonstrates, in a real, physical way, that the Church truly is catholic – universal.”
World Youth Day draws young Catholics from China, Honduras, Iraq and even Vanuatu, a remote Pacific island. In his message to WYD pilgrims, Pope Francis expressed, “I truly wish to meet with you, to give the world a new sign of harmony, a mosaic of different faces, so many races, languages, peoples, and cultures but united in the name of Jesus, who is the Face of Mercy.”
During this heightened period of international turmoil and violence, WYD is a manifestation of global solidarity and Christ’s triumph over evil. “Holding WYD, even in these dark times, is exactly what the world needs,” Johnson stated, “The light of Christ and His love cannot be extinguished by any amount of hate or fear in this world.”
Mass, music, prayer, and pope-mobile sightings are sure to illuminate Kraków throughout the week. The pilgrims will participate in Reconciliation, Stations of the Cross, Masses and a Vigil with Pope Francis. Furthermore, catechetical sessions with participating bishops, including Archbishop Chaput of Philadelphia, will be held in order for the pilgrims to learn more about their faith and ask catechists any questions they may have. “Hopefully, upon my return to America, I’ll be more aware not only of my neighbors from different parts of the globe, but of how to better live and share my faith,” Johnson said.
Those unable to make the physical journey to Kraków are still invited to take part in the spiritual journey. Pilgrim is an inclusive free app that gives people at home access to prayers, music, and other content. Additionally, photos, videos, and more WYD information can be found at http://www.krakow2016.com/en/ and www.wyd2016.us.
By Jennifer Southerton, PCC Intern and Student at DeSales University