Polish church unveils preliminary plan for pope's July visit

IMAGE: CNS/Marcin Mazur

By Jonathan Luxmoore

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) — Pope
Francis will visit the former Nazi concentration camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau during a July 27-31 visit to Poland
for the celebration of World Youth Day, the Polish bishops announced.

Up to 2.5 million young people
from around the world, as well as 20,000 priests and 1,200 bishops, are
expected at the July 26-31 youth gathering in Krakow, which is less than 50 miles from the site of the
death camp.

While the Vatican confirmed the
dates of Pope Francis’ trip to Poland, it released no details of the itinerary.

Announcing a preliminary
schedule March 12, the
Polish bishops’ conference said Pope Francis’ visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau will
include prayers at the camp’s “Death Wall,” where prisoners were executed,
and a stop at the nearby death cell of St. Maximilian Kolbe, who died there in
1941. The pope is expected to address Jewish and other faith representatives
and camp survivors at the Holocaust
memorial at Birkenau.

The Auschwitz tour, which
follows visits by St John Paul II in 1979 and Pope Benedict XVI in 2006, will fall on the presumed anniversary of the
decision by Conventual Franciscan Father Kolbe to offer his life for another

That evening, in Krakow’s Blonia Park, Pope Francis
will lead a Way of the Cross service.

“While this visit’s direct
purpose is the World Youth Day in Krakow, he’s also been invited to our
homeland,” said Auxiliary
Bishop Artur Mizinski of Lublin, general secretary of the bishops’ conference. “It’s
a great joy our overwhelmingly Catholic society will be able to unite the visit’s
ecclesiastical, spiritual and pastoral dimension with social, cultural and
political aspects of our Polish reality.”

Pope Francis will be welcomed to
Poland July 27 by President
Andrzej Duda at Krakow’s Wawel Royal Castle and will address Poland’s 117-member bishops’
conference the same evening, before greeting young people from the window of
the Krakow archbishop’s Franciszkanska
Street residence.

The pope is scheduled to travel
by helicopter July 28 to Poland’s Jasna Gora national sanctuary in nearby
Czestochowa for an open-air Mass marking the 1,050th anniversary of Poland’s conversion
to Christianity.

In the evening, at Blonia Park,
he is expected to have his first formal meeting with participants in World
Youth Day, which has as a theme, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall
obtain mercy.”

At the Divine Mercy center in
Krakow’s Lagiewniki suburb
July 30, the pope will pray before the relics of St. Faustina Kowalska and
celebrate Mass for clergy, seminarians and members of religious orders.

After hearing the confessions of
some World Youth Day participants at Lagiewniki’s St. John Paul II Sanctuary, Pope
Francis will have dinner with a group of young people from around the world.

The traditional World Youth Day
prayer vigil will be held at Campus
Misericordiae near Krakow’s Wieliczka salt mine.

Pope Francis’ last day in
Poland, July 31, will include the final World Youth Day Mass and the recitation
of the Angelus at Campus Misericordiae. He will then meet World Youth Day
organizers and return to Rome.

A senior Polish government official
said priority would be given to security and good communications during the
five-day pilgrimage to Poland, which will be the 12th by a pope in the past 37

“Today’s world demands a
deepening of dialogue on contemporary challenges, and the Holy Father’s voice
always has special significance in this field,” said Malgorzata Sadurska, head of
chancery for Duda.

“We’re delighted so many
youngsters will be coming to Poland for this event and count on these meetings
with the pope and voices of youth to send out an important summons to peace,
values and dialogue,” she said.

Poland’s Foreign Ministry has
reduced visa charges for World Youth Day participants, who are expected to
include at least 400,000 youths from Russia, Ukraine and other former communist

The July celebration will be the
second international World Youth Day event held in Poland. St. John Paul II
presided over the youth gathering in 1991 in Czestochowa.

– – –

Copyright © 2016 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. www.catholicnews.com. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at cns@catholicnews.com.

Original Article