Monday, August 22, 2016

WYD 2016 Krakow: Blessed are the Merciful

This is the event that we had been waiting for years - the World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow,  a grand opportunity for millions of young Catholics worldwide to discuss, re-examine and celebrate their faith. This year, six members of the QCCC community attended WYD as part of a larger contingent of 30 pilgrims from two Chinese parishes in Toronto (CMCC and SAT).
CMCC-SAT WYD pilgrims gathered at Pearson Airport!
Our first week was spent in the quiet town of Ostrowiec Swietokrzyski and we lived with local host families who hailed from a variety of backgrounds. Nonetheless, all of them had something in common - hospitality and enthusiasm for the Catholic faith. Each day, we had a morning prayer in a different church, before heading out for the day's activities.
Candlelight eucharistic adoration in the town square of
Ostrowiec Sw.
On the first day, we had a Stations of the Cross as we climbed a hill to visit the Basilica of the Holy Cross [relic]. The Basilica's spire offered a picturesque view of the surrounding countryside, which was made even more beautiful by the church's  hilltop location. That evening, we had candlelight Eucharistic adoration in the town square.
Wavin' Flag at the Basilica of the Holy Cross.
The activities of the following days included visits to a flint mine, a concert by Piotr Rubik, one of Poland's most popular contemporary composers, and a visit to the Sandomierz city, a well-preserved Old Town with a castle.
Canadian pilgrims with flags at
Visiting the flint mines. The mayor of Ostrowiec also
drops by to say hi.

These events only served as a precursor to a hectic but eventful week in Krakow, three hours away by bus. We celebrated Opening Mass, the Stations of the Cross and the Pope's Welcoming Ceremony in the large Blonia Park on three different nights with over a million other pilgrims, while braving bouts of rain and transit closures. Our daily cathechesis sections took place in the spanking new Tauron Arena, the designated venue for some of the English-language activities; some of the guest peakers included Cardinal Tagle (Phillipines) and Cardinal Timothy Dolan (New York).
Welcome to Krakow! Cool sign found at Rondo G.
A million pilgrims at Blonia Park. The rain could not
dampen their spirits.
What made the events more impressive were the numerous contingents of pilgrims proudly showing off their country flags and trading memorabilia with each other. Not only did we greatly increase our knowledge of country flags, we also had a meaningful time learning about others' cultures and practices.
St Mary's Basilica, overlooking
Ryneky Glowny, the main square
of Krakow.
Six pilgrims with their flags.
All the events in Krakow culminated in an overnight vigil at the massive Campus Misericordiae, which was a 10km walk from our hostel. We set up huge tarps at the campsite along with our sleeping bags, and Fr. Dominic and Fr. Thomas celebrated a minimalist daily mass with us on the tarp. At the conclusion of the vigil, Pope Francis celebrated Sunday Mass and then announced that the next WYD would be held in Panama in 2019.
The pilgrims at the Pope John Paul II Sanctuary.
The group basking in the sun on their sophisticated
network of tarps (and a tent) at Campus Misericordiae.
Candlelight vigil at Campus Misericordiae. Can this get any
Even after the events were over, we still had two days to explore the beautiful city of Krakow and also paid a visit to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Wieliczka Salt Mines, home to an immaculate underground chapel and many memorials, statues and chambers.
St Kinga's chapel in the Wieliczka Salt Mines. This is just
amazing (and 100m underground).
This year's WYD 2016 proved to be a memorable experience that reminded us of the importance and relevance of our Catholic faith. Will you be joining us for WYD 2019 in Panama?