Krakow will host the World Youth Day 2016 next summer from July 25 – 31, 2016. Organizers of the event expect the international event for Catholic youth worldwide will attract more than two million people. Preparations have been underway since Pope Francis announced Krakow as the 2016 host city at the close of World Youth Day 2013 in Rio de Janeiro. I count it as the largest international event Krakow has ever hosted. My friend Henry Zguda would be incredibly proud.
World Youth Day is one of Saint John Paul II’s legacies
The significance of Krakow hosting the event is huge. Saint John Paul II (nee Karol Wojtyla) instituted World Youth Day in 1985, and the first one was held in 1986. Additionally, the former bishop of Krakow spent most of his adult life, from college through his years as cardinal, living in Krakow. He ranks as the most famous Pole, and perhaps most influential Pole in history. Once I began to study Poland, and subsequently visited the country, it’s hard not to stand in awe of this man and his impact.
Consider the Lord’s Ark Church in Nowa Huta
Churches were not allowed under communism (1945-1989). However, as the Bishop of Krakow, Saint John Paul II would go out to Nowa Huta, a communist planned city outside Krakow, and give masses in an open area, without a church. After communist officials tore down a cross erected there, riots broke out and the communists eventually allowed a church – as long as it didn’t look like a church. The church built there is everything that communism isn’t – round, light, full of symbolism and with an interior so striking it looks nothing like a usual Catholic cathedral – and that’s the power of it.
Non-WYD 2016 Travelers take note – Visit Krakow and Vicinity Another Time
The event isn’t news for Catholics, but other travelers take note. Unless you plan to attend WYD 2016, July and early August of 2016 would not be a good time to vacation in Krakow. Prague, Munich, Rome and Assissi may also be busy as these destinations are offered as pilgrimage extensions (add-on trips) for pilgrims.
The theme for World Youth Day 2016 is “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy” (Matthew 5:7). Webster’s dictionary defines mercy as “an act of kindness, compassion or favor.” Regardless of one’s faith or creed, perhaps mercy is something we can all agree the world needs more of.