“It is with great joy that I received the message announced today by Pope Francis that the next World Youth Day will take place in Poland in the year 2016,” said Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz the Archbishop of Krakow.
In a press release posted on the Vatican Radio site, the former personal secretary to Pope John Paul II, explained “Together with the whole Church in Poland, I rejoice that the Holy Father has accepted the invitation addressed to him by the highest authorities of the Republic of Poland and by the Polish Episcopate. In this, he has responded to the desires of so many young people who have long wished to celebrate their faith in the country and the city of Karol Wojtyla, who set off for the Eternal City from Krakow in October 1978, and who, as John Paul II, Bishop of Rome, instituted World Youth Days.”
This will be the second WYD to be hosted in Poland. The first was in 1991 in the city of Czestochowa, home of the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa, also known as the Black Madonna.
Cardinal Dziwisz also noted that 2016 will be the 1050th anniversary of the Christianization of Poland, which dates back to 966 with the baptism of the Polish ruler Mieszko I.
Fr. Maciej Zieba, the former head of the Dominicans and a popular author and commentator, offered his own thoughts about what Pope Francis’s visit will mean for the predominantly Catholic country. “The pope’s visit will provide an opportunity to unify Polish Catholics by dispelling a number of ideological tendencies that have divided the faithful. It will reinforce the central, non-ideological position of the Polish Church.”
“Moreover,” Fr. Zieba explained, “it will provide creative opportunities to consider the heritage of John Paul II, while also helping the younger generation to find their place within the Church through evangelical (not ideological) and rational (not aggressive) responses to the increasing waves of aggressive and ideological secularization.”
As for what Poland can offer to international pilgrims, organization is high on the list. “The first really large and truly international WYD was in 1991 in Czestochowa. Krakow hosted John Paul II seven times and Benedict XVI once. Since 1989, Poland has also hosted four large international ecumenical youth meetings organized by the Taize community,” Fr. Zieba added. “WYD also offers the possibility of evangelizing Eastern European countries – to the east, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, but also Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary.”
Finally, Fr. Zieba explained that pilgrims will have the opportunity to “meet with the great heritage of St. John Paul II, especially in Krakow’s new John Paul II Centre, ‘Do not be afraid,’ as well as a new museum in Wadowice [Wojtyla’s birthplace]. There are also the painful reminders of the 20th century, such as Auschwitz and the Schindler’s Factory Museum in Krakow.”
Jakub Sewerynik, a young Polish lawyer who traveled to Rome for WYD 2000, explained to CWR what the choice of Krakow for the next WYD means for Poland. “I think that it is a chance for Poland to rethink our faith, it is a chance for national recollection. Especially today, when the Church here is widely criticized for its objections towards in vitro, homosexual partnerships and alleged participation in political life, WYD is a chance to look at our faith and at Jesus from a different angle.”
“I think that pilgrims from all over the world will be pleased with Polish hospitability, and Poles will be surprised to see those people admiration of Polish virtues – Polish religiousness, which we often see as passé,” said Sewerynik.
“It would be my hope,” said Fr. Jacek Buda, a Polish Dominican, “that WYD 2016 in Krakow will help Poland and maybe the whole world plunge one more time into the never-changing newness of the life of God.”