After three years of planning, World Youth Day 2016 begins this week in Kraków. Organizers expect the event will draw more than two million people from around the world. Poland’s archdioceses and dioceses have pledged to offer accommodations for over 373,000 foreign visitors. The festive gathering of youth and young adults represents the chance to share in prayer, worship, and a celebration of the Catholic faith. From Pope Francis to dancing nuns, Catholic leaders will welcome everyone in attendance.
St. John Paul II Launched World Youth Day in 1985
St. John Paul II launched World Youth Day in 1985. He welcomed the youth to Rome in 1986 for the first worldwide encounter. World Youth Day is celebrated every year in local areas, and every third year the event goes international bringing youth from all over the world together. The event targets young adults from ages 16-35, but all are welcome. The choice of Kraków as host city honors the memory of Polish St. John Paul II who lived there much of his life. It is also the first World Youth Day since St. John Paul II was canonized as a saint in April 2014.
Pope Francis Plans to Visit Auschwitz on July 29 and will meet individually with ten Holocaust Survivors.
The Pope will also meet with twenty-five “Righteous Among the Nations.” He plans no speech or large Mass at Auschwitz, and will instead enter solemnly, and visit Block 11. The killing wall stood between Block 10 and 11, where so many prisoners, including thousands of Poles, were executed by firing squad. July 29 also marks the 75th anniversary of the day St. Maximillian Kolbe the Germans condemned him to death by starvation. As a prisoner in Auschwitz, Father Kolbe exchanged places with a man condemned to die. He and the other ten men condemned were jailed in a dark, damp cell in the basement of Block 11. Every day he held Mass and held the men up in prayer. After two weeks, he was the last man alive. Today a custom security door stands in place of the heavy, wooden door that sealed the cell in darkness. The door allows visitors to peer into the cell.
As quoted from the Catholic News Agency:
To do this “is very important for the Jewish people,” as well as for Poles, many of whom lost family members in the camp, he said, noting that his own grandfather was a prisoner who escaped, and that Poland’s Prime Minister lost some of her family there.
Blessed are the Merciful, for they shall receive mercy, Matthew 5:7 is the theme chosen for this year’s event.
In the spirit of joy and celebration, here’s a fun clip of dancing nuns, getting in the spirit of World Youth Day.