World Youth Day
Hundreds of thousands of young pilgrims from 187 countries from around the globe journeyed to Kraków, Poland, for the 28th World Youth Day (WYD) to celebrate being young and Catholic and to experience the universal church.
WYD 2016 was not just a day but a week-long youth festival from 26‒31 July at Krakow’s churches and sports arenas with catechesis sessions, concerts, musical plays, a soccer championship and other activities.
WYD was initiated by St John Paul II in 1985. It is celebrated every two or three years at different locations.
In his first visit to Poland, Pope Francis landed at St Pope John Paul airport in Kraków on Wednesday 27 July to begin a five-day visit to celebrate the 1,050th anniversary of the Baptism of Poland and to address the young pilgrims.
A highlight on Saturday was the prayer vigil with ‘mercy’ as the main theme at the Campus Misericordiae or ‘Field of Mercy’. An estimated one million young pilgrims had walked four miles to the vast field festooned with flags of different movements, dioceses and congregations from around the world. Amidst the world’s largest gathering of Catholic youth, Pope Francis offered up a prayer asking God, ‘…to keep in peace the world and its people, to keep far away from the devastating wave of terrorism…to restore friendship and instil in the hearts of your creatures the gift of trust and of readiness to forgive’. He said, ‘Young people, have the courage to teach us that it is easier to build bridges than walls. We need this.’
On Sunday, Pope Francis celebrated the ‘Sending Mass’ and issued the invitation for the next WYD, to take place in Panama in 2019.