Pope Francis will address the crowd at World Youth Day festival in Krakow, Poland.
World Youth Day, an event conducted by the Catholic Church for young people every three years, started yesterday in Krakow, Poland. Around 2 million people, the majority of them Polish, are expected to attend the week-long event. Poland has a population of 38.5 million people with 92 percent of the population Catholic.
Pope Francis will be attending the event July 28. This will be the Pontiff's first trip to Poland. While in the country, he will visit Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Nazi concentration camp where millions of Jews were killed, for a silent prayer. A previously scheduled speech was cancelled, with Pope Francis deciding to honor those who lost their lives in a different way, stating he “would like to go to that place of horror without speeches, without crowds – only the few people necessary.” The Pontiff will also be visiting the Jasna Gora monastery to see the famous 14th-century icon of the Black Madonna.
The Polish authorities have made massive arrangements for the World Youth Day event and Poland security forces are on high alert. Pope Francis will be escorted by the Polish troops during all his appearances. The Polish rail network has deployed hundreds of extra trains for the pilgrims. To increase access to Campus Misericordiae, also called as Field of Mercy, where Pope Francis will be holding the main masses, seven new bridges have been constructed. A city tram arranged exclusively for the Pontiff will act as his Popemobile. Beata Szydło, the Prime Minister of Poland said the city will be as secure as the Vatican during the Pope's visit.
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The event will also see arts and sports activities, concerts, master classes given by the bishops, and even confession booths. According to Father Christopher Jamison, a Benedictine monk from Britain, people all over the world love festivals, and World Youth Day is one of the biggest festivals. It is described by many people as 'Glastonbury with God.'
The world will be watching whether Pope Francis will touch two controversial issues in Poland during his speeches and homilies, abortion and refugees. Poland was supposed to take in 7,600 refugees from Syria according to its EU-agreement, however, the rightwing Polish government broke the agreement stating that the figure should be revised in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Europe. The second issue is regarding reproductive rights. Poland already has one of the most restrictive abortion laws in Europe, but Poland bishops are pressing for a total ban on abortion.
The Pontiff, last Sunday, asked the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square to pray for him, and for the people attending the event. He said he will be celebrating with the attendees, and for them, the Jubilee of Mercy, through St. John Paul II's intercession. It was Saint Pope John Paul II who initiated the World Youth Day, in 1985.