Dear Prospective Pilgrims and Leaders of WYD 2016,
As you prepare to attend World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow, Poland, I’d like to offer a small reflection of the last WYD experience in Rio de Janeiro.
As people gathered in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from all over the world to participate in that World Youth Day, we all waited in great anticipation for the arrival of the Successor of St. Peter, Pope Francis. It was his first trip back to his beloved Latin America since being elected Pope. I was touched by his words at the welcome ceremony with the President of Brazil. He said to her, “I have learned that, to gain access to the Brazilian people, it is necessary to pass through its great heart; so let me knock gently at this door. I ask permission to come in and spend this week with you. I have neither silver nor gold, but I bring with me the most precious thing given to me: Jesus Christ!”
My friends, World Youth Day is the opportunity to celebrate Jesus Christ and the great gift of his presence through His Body, the Church. In 2016 we will gather again with the Successor of St. Peter. The WYD experience is an opportunity to strengthen ourselves, with the help of our brothers and sisters from around the world, to be faithful and dedicated followers of Jesus Christ. This upcoming World Youth Day in Krakow is most significant since we will gather in the homeland of the one who initiated the World Youth Day experience – St. John Paul II. Blessed by the Holy Spirit, St. John Paul II had a vision of providing young people the means to gain knowledge of their faith, to take courage in the pilgrimage, and to strengthen their faith through the celebration of the Sacraments. As you prepare for World Youth Day, open your hearts and minds to the wisdom, courage and strength that awaits you in this blessed experience. It will impact your faith in a tremendous way. The WYD experience will help you draw closer to the Lord. This wonderful event has blessed many participants with the grace to follow him ever more faithfully as committed disciples.
Even though our paths may not cross at WYD in Krakow, I look forward to being with you and millions of others, as we celebrate the universality of our Church and the most precious gift we have: Jesus Christ!
Through the intercession of St. John Paul II, may the Lord increase our faith and guide our journey.
Sincerely in Christ,
Bishop Edward J. Burns
Diocese of Juneau, Alaska