Relics of Sts. Faustina Kowalska and John Paul II are carried into the opening Mass for World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland, July 26. CNS photo/Jaclyn Lippelmann, Catholic Standard

Spread message of divine mercy, Krakow cardinal says at WYD opening

By  Jonathan Luxmoore, Catholic News Service
  • July 26, 2016

KRAKOW, Poland – St. John Paul II's former secretary urged young Catholics to share their faith, experiences and hopes and spread a "message of divine mercy" worldwide during World Youth Day.

"We come from every nation under heaven, like those who came in great numbers to Jerusalem on Pentecost Day, but there are incomparably more of us now than 2,000 years ago, because we are accompanied by centuries of preaching the Gospel," Krakow Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz said during the July 26 opening Mass.

"We bring experience of various cultures, traditions and languages. But what we also bring are testimonies of faith and holiness of our brothers and sisters, followers of the risen Lord, of past generations as well as the current generation," he said.

The cardinal preached to an estimated 200,000 pilgrims from 187 countries in Krakow's Blonia Park, a day before the scheduled arrival of Pope Francis.

He said a special clock had been fitted to the front of the city's cathedral, "counting the days, hours, minutes and seconds," since 2013, when the city was announced as the venue for World Youth Day this year.

He added that Krakow was the city from where St. John Paul "set off to preach the Gospel," as well as where St. Faustina Kowalska helped spread devotion to Divine Mercy worldwide in the 20th century.

"You have come from all continents and nations, from the East and West, North and South of our globe," said Cardinal Dziwisz, who was personal secretary to St. John Paul for 39 years.

"You bring with you many experiences. You bring many desires. You speak numerous languages. But starting today, we are going to communicate with each other in the language of the Gospel – a language of love, brotherhood, solidarity and peace."

Up to 2 million young people were expected to attend World Youth Day July 26-31. Nearly 50 cardinals, 800 bishops and 20,000 priests from around the world also were to attend.

The opening Mass was partially disrupted by heavy rain, which forced the temporary closure of Krakow's airport. The Mass site featured giant portraits of Sts. John Paul and Faustina by the main altar.

A Catholic teacher from the pope's native Argentina, Clara Retta, told ˆ she counted on Pope Francis to encourage young people to "go out to people and do things for others" and to bring a "message of joy and simplicity."

She added that she believed the 7,000 Argentines attending World Youth Day had been warmly welcomed in Poland and were "very excited and proud" to be seeing the pope.

Carolina Alraheb, a Catholic from the war-torn city of Homs, Syria, said she hoped her countrymen would come to see themselves as "part of one family" by somehow maintaining a "deep relationship with God."

"I hope the pope will also ask our people to deepen their own relations with themselves and find meaning in life again," said the 25-year-old physics student, who was among two dozen Syrian Catholics at World Youth Day with two Jesuit priests from Aleppo.

"Home is full of orphans and widows, and many people have asked where God is. But I realized he's still here, suffering with us and staying with the young Syrians, who'll one day rebuild their country as a house of God," she said.

WYD Blog

Click here to view all WYD Blog entries!

WYD PhotoBlog

  • Jean's Photo Diary

    July 26, 2016: The shrine of the Black Madonna was opened to World Youth Day pilgrims so that they could venerate the miraculous image up close. (Photo by Jean Ko Din)

    Follow our reporter Jean Ko Din as she photographs her journey to Krakow, Poland for the 2016 World Youth Day.