POLAND has a lot to offer: great sites, rich culture and decadent cuisine.
But last July, around 2 million Christians from all over the world came for something more than the usual tourist spots. Krakow, Poland, hosted the 2016 World Youth Day with the theme “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”
Coinciding with the Catholic Church’s Year of Mercy, the event held talks, activities and pilgrimages that emphasized mercy and reconciliation. During the week-long festivities, flocks of young Christians from different nations took to the streets of Krakow to celebrate their faith together with Pope Francis.
Songs of praise could be heard as early as 4 a.m. Young pilgrims crowded the public transport systems and some walked for hours from their accommodations and under Poland’s erratic weather conditions just to get to their pilgrimage site.
The Holy Father, along with several bishops, spoke against the violence in Syria and Lebanon and called for a larger and more compassionate response not just to the refugee crisis, but for the reformation of “sinners.”
Around 1,700 of the delegates were Filipinos. Here are some insights from the Archdiocesan Commission on Youth (ACY) of Manila:
“God loves me, even if I’m a sinner—I realized this during Pope Francis’ sharing during the vigil. It made me shed tears of joy because deep within my heart, I felt that God loves me unconditionally even if I’m not worthy of His love. He will always be there, waiting for me and continuously giving me the love that I feel I don’t deserve. God’s mercy is so powerful that it can change one’s life for the better.”—Twinsy Adajar
“One amazing part of the journey was the long road to the vigil site, Campus Misericordiae. Young people from 187 countries did not mind the burning heat of the sun, the hunger and thirst felt along the way and the seemingly endless road. I realized that this is the miracle of the Catholic faith. We will always be there where God is calling us to hear His message of love, hope and mercy.”—Peter Capistrano
“From the jokes and the talks, to the mass of Cardinal Tagle, the Pope’s visit, and the vigil, I can say that all of these major events have truly changed me and have made an impact on who I am today. I learned that we will always be God’s masterpieces. It doesn’t matter if we’re a shell of what we used to be, or if we haven’t reached our full potential. What matters is that we open ourselves to God’s love.”—Marlo Abadillo
“The language barrier, the long walks, all the sacrifices—they were all worth it to see my prayers being lifted up and seeing Pope Francis in person. As he said in one of the talks, ‘Comfort is not synonymous with happiness.’ Our sacrifices made me realize the joy of being with other pilgrims, and that we are here to leave a mark as Christians merciful to all our fellowmen.”—Lance Forteza
“The most cherished memory I have of the World Youth Day was the Vigil Night with the Pope. After a long day of walking under the sun with thousands of other pilgrims from around the world, a solemn night of praying with the Pope was a gratifying experience. I felt blessed that other people were able to experience the journey with me, to feel the mercy of God throughout the pilgrimage.” —Kristine Buenafe
“Of all the 84 members of our group, I was the only who didn’t make it to the vigil site for the night vigil and final mass of World Youth Day, as I had sprained my ankle. As someone who was especially excited about the entire pilgrimage, I found it difficult to accept and understand why I couldn’t join the 20-kilometer march. Though I didn’t go, I don’t think I lost anything. What I received in exchange for the vigil was truly remarkable: the leader of our delegation decided to stay with me for the entire day, just to make me feel better. I have much love in my heart for this person, whose genuine kindness and compassion aren’t acknowledged enough.” —Bella Abuel
“My biggest takeaway from Krakow is to be thankful for all of God’s blessings, no matter how big or small. It’s through pilgrimages like this that you really see God’s mercy and the small everyday miracles He gives you.” —Luigi Soliven
This World Youth Day will surely be memorable to the 2 million pilgrims who came from around the world to experience the loving mercy of their Lord.
In times of violence, when hate and injustice run amok, there is definitely something to take away from the Church’s message of
The evils of the world may never be justified or explained but we can still answer to the evils we experience—we can answer with compassion and mercy, not with more evil.