(Vatican Radio) Our correspondent in Krakow, Lydia O’Kane, looks back at the highlights and gives her personal impressions of Pope Francis’ 5-day visit to Poland during which he attended the World Youth Day gathering, visited the site of the former Nazi death camp at Auschwitz and travelled to Poland’s most revered shrine, the Jasna Gora at Czestochowa.
Listen to Lydia O’Kane’s report:
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The fields of the Campus Misercordiae and Blonia Park are empty now in Krakow, but the echoes of Pope Francis’ rallying cries remain in both these grounds; the encouragement to dream big, not to be afraid to take risks, not to be discouraged, and to get up off one’s comfortable sofa and leave a mark on life.”
The Pope came to Poland, the beloved homeland of his predecessor St John Paul II with a message; a message of hope, mercy, and compassion for young people here at a time when the world is experiencing deep suffering and terrible cruelty.
This was a visit to celebrate the bringing together of young pilgrims from all over the world with one thing in common the love of God, but it was also a pastoral visit with unforgettable images.
The Pope’s slow solemn walk through the infamous gate at Auschwitz and his silent prayer in the cell of St Maximillian Kolbe will endure for years to come. As will his emotional visit to pay homage to the Black Madonna of Czestochowa.
But where there are tears there can also be joy, such as the unforgettable scenes of youth enthusiastically encountering other pilgrims from around the world at Blonia Park and Campus Misericordiae. There was also a delighted Pope Francis who looked positively thrilled to be taking public transport once again in the form of a tram ride through Krakow, and the little girl at the paediatric hospital in the city who literally melted the Pope’s heart by drawing him one.
At the final Mass of this youth meeting, Pope Francis told the young pilgrims that “World Youth Day begins today and continues tomorrow, in your homes, since that is where Jesus wants to meet you from now on.”
What is clearly evident here in Krakow is that the youth are ready and willing for the challenge. They want to show people back in their own countries that it’s ok to stand up and express one’s faith with pride. They want show that there is a cheerful aspect to the Church and they want to let it shine through just like here at World Youth Day. They also want to tell their communities back home that Jesus is alive and his mercy never ends.
Before leaving Poland, Pope Francis gave the World Youth Day pilgrims here an appointment for Panama City in 2019. Many have already planned to go, but until then, the seeds have been planted; now it’s up to them to help them grow.