By Paul Jarzembowki
On the heels of his apostolic visit to the United States, Pope Francis has issued an invitation to youth and young adults around the world to join him next year in Krakow, Poland, from July 26 to 31, 2016, for the thirty-first annual World Youth Day celebration.
“We eagerly anticipate the next great encounter with the universal Church,” said Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo, chairman of the USCCB Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth. “Having just celebrated with Pope Francis in Philadelphia the beauty of marriage and family life, World Youth Day is an opportunity to celebrate the gift of young people to the Church and to the world.”
During his early October visit to the Saint John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, Kraków Cardinal Stansilaus Dziwisz invited all youth and young adults of North America to World Youth Day. Pictured below, Cardinal Dziwisz was greeted by a delegation of young people at a statue dedicated to Saint John Paul II, for whom he served as private secretary during his pontificate.
The cardinal said during his trip: "I take this opportunity of my visit to American soil to invite the young people of the United States and Canada to the 2016 World Youth Day in Kraków, the city of John Paul II, the place of Divine Mercy. Dear young friends: we want to share with you our place, our culture. But we also want you to share with us the enthusiasm of your faith. We are very much looking forward to these days..."
Over 10,000 young people and 60 bishops from the United States have already registered for World Youth Day, with many more expected in the months to come.
“The pilgrimage of World Youth Day, in the Jubilee of Mercy, will offer a personal invitation to every pilgrim to open the door of his or her heart ever more fully to the liberating, forgiving and healing power of Christ’s love. And when we are blessed with the gift of Mercy, we will also receive the courage to bring mercy to those around us,” said Most Rev. Frank Caggiano, Bishop of Bridgeport and USCCB World Youth Day Episcopal Liaison.
The statement issued by the Holy Father connects the World Youth Day experience with the Jubilee of Mercy, encouraging young people to reflect on the Scriptures (in particular the Beatitudes, Luke 15, Leviticus 5, and Matthew 25), the Cross, and the life of Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, whom the bishops of the United States have designated as one of the primary spiritual patrons of World Youth Day.
For each of the first seven months of 2016, Pope Francis asks young people to engage in at least one corporal and one spiritual work of mercy to prepare themselves for World Youth Day, praying for strength with St. John Paul II and St. Faustina Kowalska and joining in their prayer for Divine Mercy. He also speaks of the great power of the Sacrament of Reconciliation as a way to prepare for the journey.
Bishop Caggiano noted: “There is one story in the Pope’s message that I found deeply touching. It is when the Holy Father relates the story of going to confession at seventeen years of age and meeting a priest who inspired him. The Pope speaks of feeling a desire to open his heart to confession. It is the image of opening our hearts to Christ that best summarizes the Jubilee of Mercy and the World Youth Day celebration in Krakow. The Lord is standing at the door of our hearts, knocking gently with His love, asking to come in and heal what is broken, hurt, angry or confused in our lives.”
The USCCB continues to develop resources and spiritual tools to assist pilgrims and leaders in their journeys towards World Youth Day, which can be found online at www.wydusa.org.
In an effort to ensure no young person is excluded from this journey, the USCCB has also issued guides for parishes to gather youth and young adults who are unable to travel to Krakow next summer. Details of these resources will also be shared on Twitter and Facebook.
Paul Jarzembowski serves as the national coordinator for World Youth Day USA and is the assistant director for youth and young adult ministries in the Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth at the USCCB.