Today is completely dedicated to the WYD Vigil, a long encounter with the youth at Campus Misericordiae; however, it is also the day of Lagieniwcki, saint Faustina Kowalska site. The Pope walked through the Mercy Door at the new shrine of Divine Mercy, and he celebrated the sacrament of reconciliation with eight young people speaking in Italian, French and Spanish. Before entering the shrine the pope greeted the thousands of youth who had been waiting for hours his arrival since the early morning.
Later the pope arrived at the John Paul II Center where he celebrated mass with the clergy, women and men religious, consecrated people and Polish seminarians. To all of them he repeated the great appeal of Saint John Paul II: “Open the doors!” “Yet, in our lives as priests and consecrated persons, we can often be tempted to remain enclosed, out of fear or convenience, within ourselves and in our surroundings.” admonished the pope, according to whom “ Jesus directs us to a one-way street: that of going forth from ourselves. It is a one-way trip, with no return ticket. It involves making an exodus from ourselves” because Jesus does not “like journeys made halfway, doors half-closed, lives lived on two tracks. He asks us to pack lightly for the journey, to set out renouncing our own security.”
“Each of us –said the Holy Father concluding his homily- holds in his or her heart a very personal page of the book of God’s mercy. It is the story of our own calling, the voice of the love that attracted us and transformed our life, leading us to leave everything at his word and to follow him.” “ Continue writing his Gospel of love” like Thomas was his final mandate.
In a simple and open environment Pope Francis had lunch together with thirteen young people (two from each of the five continents, two representatives of the hosting country, and Dorota Abdelmoula speaker of the Local Organizing Committee). Conversation during lunch took place in five languages, especially in Spanish and Italian.
In the meantime, since the early morning the youth pilgrimage had started: a long colorful endless line of young people slowly merging at Campus Misericordiae, a huge plain located between Cracow periphery and the citadel of Wieliczka. The two final acts of World Youth Day will take place in Wieliczka: the Vigil and the Final Mass of July 31st.
The pilgrimage route covers around twelve kilometers. It is a very hot day, so many Polish families living along the route take care of the pilgrims offering them food, beverages and hosing them with water.
In this area two works will be left as WYD symbols: an elderly rehabilitation center, called “Campus Misericordiae”, and a Caritas center called “Bread of Mercy”. This last will function as a store of food items to be distributed to the Cracow needy.
Before his arrival to the Vigil site, pope Francis briefly stopped at St. Francis, a church very close to the archbishopric, where two relics of Franciscan friars killed in Pariacoto, Peru, on August 9, 1991 by “Sendero luminoso” Maoist guerrillas are venerated. There the pope recited a “Prayer for peace and the defense from violence and terrorism”.
Upon his arrival at Campus Misericordiae, pope Francis walked through the Holy Door hand to hand with three young girls and three young boys representing the five continents (America had two: one for the South and one for the North). Then, another unscheduled fact took place: the pope invited the same six to go with him on the pope-mobile. Reactions of great joy and wonder followed, the pope looked very happy.
At the beginning of the Vigil three young people shared their experiences of life. Natalie, a young Polish girl: “I had success at work, I used to go out with handsome boys partying all the time: this was the sense of my life. Everything was going well.” “Until one day- she continued- I woke up very anxious thinking that all I was doing was everything but good. I understood all of a sudden I had to go that very day to confession.” From that point on a true and deep conversion started to take place in her.
Rand Mittri, a girl of 26, from Aleppo, Syria, at Campus Misericordiae shared with the pope and all the youth the drama of Syrian refugees. “The sense of our life has been nullified”, she continued “Probably for many of you is more difficult to understand what’s going on in my country; in fact, it is difficult even for me to describe to you in a few sentences the imagine of my beloved country torn by suffering. We live surrounded by death every day. However, every day as you do, we get up and go to work or to school. While closing our home door we are threatened by fear of not returning to our family or to still finding our home.” “Oh God, where are you? Do you really exist?” This is the question that comes often to our mind. However, “My faith in Jesus Christ is the reason of my joy and of my hope. Nobody will be able to steal from me this authentic joy.”
“I have been under drugs for sixteen years. I was eleven at the time” these are the words used by Miguel, 34, to start his witness. He is from Asunciòn, Paraguay. Leaving school early, being in prison for criminal acts, coming out of jail and then starting again that bad life. After coming out of prison definitely, a priest friend of Miguel invited him to go to a place called “Fazenda da Esperanza-Hope House” and “For the first time in my life I felt I had a family” he says. Lastly, he went to confession and received the forgiveness of the Lord: “God transforms us deeply, from within!” Since ten years Miguel has recuperated completely his health, now he is responsible for the house “Quo vadis?” nearby the House of Hope in Cerro Chato.
In his meditation the Holy Father echoed to these experiences and to those hopes: “For us, here, today, coming from different parts of the world, the suffering and the wars that many young people experience are no longer anonymous, something we read about in the papers. They have a name, they have a face, they have a story, they are close at hand. “ he said during the Prayer Vigil, this “has caused pain and suffering for so many people, for so many young people like our brave friend Rand, who has come here and asked us to pray for her beloved country. Some situations seem distant until in some way we touch them. We don’t appreciate certain things because we only see them on the screen of a cell phone or a computer. But when we come into contact with life, with people’s lives, not just images on a screen, something powerful happens. We all feel the need to get involved.”
“To see that there are no more “forgotten cities”, to use Rand’s words, or brothers and sisters of ours “surrounded by death and killing”, completely helpless. Dear friends, I ask that we join in prayer for the sufferings of all the victims of war, of this war today in the world. Once and for all, may we realize that nothing justifies shedding the blood of a brother or sister; that nothing is more precious than the person next to us.” “you are a living sign of what God’s mercy wants to accomplish in us” the Pope continued. “This is no time for denouncing anyone or fighting. We do not want to tear down, we do not want to give insult. We have no desire to conquer hatred with more hatred, violence with more violence, terror with more terror. We are here today because the Lord has called us together. Our response to a world at war has a name: its name is fraternity, its name is brotherhood, its name is communion, its name is family. We celebrate the fact that coming from different cultures, we have come together to pray. Let our best word, our best argument, be our unity in prayer.” Then the invitation to the thousands of young people present coming from 187 countries “Let us take a moment of silence and pray. Let us place before the Lord these testimonies of our friends, and let us identify with those for whom “the family is a meaningless concept, the home only a place to sleep and eat”, and with those who live with the fear that their mistakes and sins have made them outcasts. Let us also place before the Lord your own “battles”, our “battles”, the interior struggles that each carries in his or her heart.”
“We have seen how, like the disciples, they experienced similar moments, living through times of great fear, when it seemed like everything was falling apart.” With these words the pope summarized the three testimonies heard at Campus Misericordiae. “The fear and anguish born of knowing that leaving home might mean never again seeing their loved ones, the fear of not feeling appreciated or loved, the fear of having no choices” he continued in his meditation “They shared with us the same experience the disciples had; they felt the kind of fear that only leads to one thing. Where does fear lead us? The feeling of being closed in on oneself, trapped. Once we feel that way, our fear starts to fester and is inevitably joined by its “twin sister”, paralysis: the feeling of being paralyzed.” “Thinking that in this world, in our cities and our communities, there is no longer any room to grow, to dream, to create, to gaze at new horizons – in a word to live – is one of the worst things that can happen to us in life” admonished the pope, according to whom “When we are paralyzed, we miss the magic of encountering others, making friends, sharing dreams, walking at the side of others. This paralysis distances us from others, it prevents us from taking each other’s hand, as we saw [on the stage], all closed within the small rooms of glass.”
We do not have to fall into the temptation of thinking that “in order to be happy all we need is a good sofa. A sofa that makes us feel comfortable, calm, safe. A sofa like one of those we have nowadays with a built-in massage unit to put us to sleep. A sofa that promises us hours of comfort so we can escape to the world of videogames and spend all kinds of time in front of a computer screen. A sofa that keeps us safe from any kind of pain and fear. A sofa that allows us to stay home without needing to work at, or worry about, anything.” The “sofa-happiness” cautioned Pope Francis is probably the most harmful and insidious form of paralysis for us because, little by little, without even realizing it, we start to nod off, to grow drowsy and dull, while others – perhaps more alert than we are, but not necessarily better – decide our future for us.
“Dear young people, we didn’t come into this work to “vegetate”, to take it easy, to make our lives a comfortable sofa to fall asleep on. No, we came for another reason: to leave a mark. It is very sad to pass through life without leaving a mark attested the pope:” But when we opt for ease and convenience, for confusing happiness with consumption, then we end up paying a high price indeed: we lose our freedom.” “There are so many people who do not want the young to be free; there are so many people who do not wish you well, who want you to be drowsy and dull, and never free!” exclaimed the pope.
“The times we live in do not call for young “couch potatoes”, but for young people with shoes, or better, boots laced.” The pope is firmly convinced of this. In fact in his meditation he also affirmed: “Jesus is the Lord of risk, he is the Lord of the eternal “more”. Jesus is not the Lord of comfort, security and ease. Following Jesus demands a good dose of courage, a readiness to trade in the sofa for a pair of walking shoes and to set out on new and uncharted paths. To blaze trails that open up new horizons capable of spreading joy, the joy that is born of God’s love and wells up in your hearts with every act of mercy.“ “To take the path of the “craziness” of our God, who teaches us to encounter him in the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the sick, the friend in trouble, the prisoner, the refugee and the migrant, and our neighbors who feel abandoned. To take the path of our God, who encourages us to be politicians, thinkers, social activists. The God who encourages us to devise an economy marked by greater solidarity than our own.” The pope, using a metaphor taken from football, stressed: “The world needs players in the field, there is no room for reserve players. We are called today to defend our own dignity, and “not let others to decide your future for you.” The Lord -assured the pope- “wants your hands to continue building the world of today. And he wants to build that world with you. And what is your response? Yes or no?” “Jesus is pointing you to the future, and never to the museum.”
“To build bridges… Do you know the first bridge that has to be built? It is a bridge that we can build here and now – by reaching out and taking each other’s hand. Come on, build it now. Build this human bridge, take each other’s hand, all of you: it is the first of bridges, it is the human bridge, it is the first, it is the model. This is a great bridge of brotherhood, and would that the powers of this world might learn to build it… not for pictures and ulterior motives, but for building ever bigger bridges.”
At the conclusion Campus Misericordiae was filled with an infinite number of young people who had positively answered the pope’s invitation “May this human bridge be the beginning of many, many others; in that way, it will leave a mark.”
“Have the courage to teach us, have the courage to show us that it is easier to build bridges than walls! We need to learn this. Together we ask that you challenge us to take the path of fraternity. May you point the finger at us, if we choose the path of walls, the path of enmity, the path of war.”
The Eucharistic Adoration was the final part of the Vigil and prepared for the night, enlightened by 1.600,000 candles that the (estimated) participants lit. They slept under a sky full of stars, at Campus Misericordiae.Galleria fotografica