Vol. 167 No. 32 - August 06 - August 12, 2016
Pope Francis comes most alive when he gets to be a pastor, and on the opening day of the World Youth Day this year, he got to be just that, delivering a simple yet powerful message to the hundreds of thousands of young women and men who travelled from 187 countries to the land of St John Paul II to Blonia Park in Krakow to participate in WYD 2016.
Once in Blonia Park, the Pope did the mandatory swing in the popemobile, blessing screaming pilgrims left and right, who welcomed him with singing, shouting and a general atmosphere of hysteria. When he arrived on the stage, a smiling Pope Francis was welcomed by Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow and several dozen dancers who performed musical pieces representing the various continents, including an Argentine tango in honour of history's first Pope from the Global South, giving the opening ceremony an atmosphere similar, though less expensive, to that of the Olympic Games.
Among other things, Pope Francis received a specially made pilgrim backpack, similar to the one that the over 350,000 registered pilgrims received, but in white to match papal dress etiquette. The Pope thanked St John Paul II for creating these youth events that have been taking place since the mid-1980s in different cities, from Buenos Aires in 1987, through Manila, Santiago de Compostela, Madrid, Denver, Sydney, Toronto and Rio de Janeiro. "From his place in heaven, he is with us, and he sees all of you: so many young people from such a variety of nations, cultures and languages, but with one aim, that of rejoicing that Jesus is living in our midst," Pope Francis said.
Tying WYD to the Holy Year of Mercy, the pontiff said that during these days, Poland wants to be "the ever-youthful face of mercy. From this land, with you and all those young people who cannot be present today, yet join us through the various communications media, we are going to make this World Youth Day an authentic Jubilee celebration."
As he often does when he talks to youth, the Pope spoke about his experience as Archbishop of Buenos Aires. He said that during those years, he learned that nothing is more beautiful than "seeing the enthusiasm, dedication, zeal and energy with which so many young people live their lives."
"When Jesus touches a young person's heart, he or she becomes capable of truly great things," he said. After inviting the thousands not to let any one convince them they can't change reality, he went off the cuff, adding that there are some who want to convince the youth that things cannot be fixed. "I ask you… Can things be changed?"To which the crowd responded with a resounding "Yes!" During his remarks, Francis also touched on the issue of immigration, seeing that in many ways, these international youth gatherings provide a unique opportunity to provide a human face to what's considered the worst refugee crisis since WWII.
"A merciful heart is able to be a place of refuge for those who are without a home or have lost their home; it is able to build a home and a family for those forced to emigrate; it knows the meaning of tenderness and compassion. A merciful heart can share its bread with the hungry and welcome refugees and migrants," he said. To say the word "mercy," Pope Francis continued, is to talk about "opportunity, future, commitment, trust, openness, hospitality, compassion and dreams."
Pope Francis closed his remarks asking the youth to join him in prayer, asking God to "launch us on the adventure of mercy"—of building bridges and tearing down walls, barriers and barbed wires, being built across some European countries to keep migrants out.
John L Allen Jr is the editor of Crux, specialising in coverage of the Vatican and the Catholic Church, and Inés San Martín is an Argentinean journalist who covers the Vatican in Rome for Crux.
For young pilgrims who travelled from every continent of the earth to be in Krakow for the 31st edition of the WYD, the experience was nothing less than exhilarating. The city of Krakow came to a standstill for a week, as a sea of young people took over the streets. It was a young and 'loud' celebration of faith and Catholicism, the Universal Church united around the figure of Peter, worshipping God and celebrating their joy. As per official figures, 843 pilgrims were present from India, including 54 priests and 10 nuns.
I, on the other hand, saw and experienced the WYD from a different perspective. As a volunteer at the Media Centre - International Press Office, I saw the action behind the scenes. We knew things before they could happen, and then saw it playing out on screens. It's fair to say that I 'saw' WYD on my laptop at a desk, but I also had the opportunity to go out into the field during Papal events and observe it from a third perspective, not as an organiser, not as a pilgrim, but watching both of them in action. I watched the young people's emotions: I saw them screaming with joy, I saw them crying, overwhelmed with happiness at seeing Pope Francis in person.
The significance and the beauty of Saint John Vianney, the parish priest who spent 41 years serving the people of Ars, France, is not because he left us an abundant collection of brilliant theological writings. Nor is he noted for founding a religious order or being the visionary behind some great spiritual movement in the life of the Church. The significance and beauty of his life is to be found in his simple witness of being a faithful, zealous loving parish priest who was truly a pastor for the people.
Upon coming to the boundary of the parish territory, the new pastor knelt down and prayed, asking the Lord to bless him as he assumed his responsibilities. With that, he arose and entered into a community that he would transform, and in turn, would change him forever.
Sitting with head bowed and eyes closed, Pope Francis paid silent tribute to the victims of one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century.
The Pope arrived July 29 at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp in Oswiecim, an area now blanketed by green fields and empty barracks, lined by barbed wire fences, remnants of a horror that remains embedded in history.
Used by the Nazis from 1940 to 1945, the camp was the Nazi's largest, and consisted of three parts: Auschwitz I, where many were imprisoned and murdered; the Birkenau extermination camp - also known as Auschwitz II - and Auschwitz III (Auschwitz-Monowitz), an area of auxiliary camps that included several factories.
In 1942, Auschwitz became the site of the mass extermination of over 1 million Jews, 21,000 Roma (gypsies), 15,000 Soviet prisoners of war, and thousands of Polish citizens of different nationalities.
Among those killed were St Maximilian Kolbe, a Polish Conventual Franciscan friar, and Edith Stein, a Jewish philosopher who converted to Catholicism and became a Carmelite nun, St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross.
Crossing the gate inscribed with the infamous motto "Arbeit macht frei" ("Work sets you free"), the Pope quietly sat on a small bench for ten minutes with his head bowed, occasionally glancing sombrely around, before closing his eyes in silent prayer.
Vianney Sunday. The day the universal Church acknowledges the role every priest plays in building up the Church – spiritually and physically.
Priesthood is a sacrifice as well as a reward. Sacrifice, because the pain that a priest goes through cannot be fathomed. Reward, because it is the priest who consecrates and transforms the bread and wine at every mass into the Body and Blood of Christ.
Priests are human too. They have aspirations, dreams and plans for themselves and for the flock. They would most willingly want to join the corporate world or aspire to build a family, but the greatest sacrifice that a priest makes is to dedicate his life to the Lord and His people.
The allurement of the world is strong. Life has become faster: New gizmos are overtaking our conscience; Apps have already grown onto us, and today steer our lives; Pokémon Go has stormed us; Pizza and call centres with out-bound and in-bound calls beacon the night shifts; the internet provides us with connectivity, is a great place to get information, Facebook to exchange information, WhatsApp to keep in touch with family, friends and 'new' friends. How then should a priest adapt to the modern way of life and keep his vows sacred? Reading the breviary and offering up 'hidden' prayers during mass that his ordination demands.'
My dearest son,
As the feast of your patron, St John Marie Vianney, draws near, a host of nostalgic memories flood my mind, and a deep love for you fills my heart, and so today, I dare to bare my heart to you, my son.
I recall the day you left home to join the seminary, preceded by months of uncertainty, as you struggled to discern your vocation. I remember with nostalgia your seminary days, the joy it gave us to visit you each month, and the pleasure of having you spend occasional vacations with us. When you left home, we thought that you had left us, but we soon found that you were now even closer to us than before. I still recall the fellowship and camaraderie you enjoyed at the seminary... we always found you so happy and fulfilled, and we remember with gratitude, the love and care lavished on you by your superiors, during your years of formation.
I remember the unforgettable day of your ordination, and the great happiness that filled our hearts at the thought of now having a 'priest son'. I can never forget the day of your First Mass and the joy of receiving the Eucharist from your consecrated hands. We felt so proud to call you "our son" and over the past years, Dad and I have followed you with much prayer and deep love and concern.
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