By Olivier Bault.
Pope Francis took off from the Kraków airport on Sunday evening after a highly successful 2016 edition of the World Youth Day. Aside from the extremely naive remarks about Islam made by the Bishop of Rome from 10 km altitude, in one of those altitude presses conferences , altitude in which he seems to devote a bad choice, the first observation is that he has not met the expectations of leftist media. They were hoping for a call to order this Polish Catholic who refuses to welcome Muslim migrants illegally in Africa and the Middle East. It wasn’t the case as the only indictment was made by the author of the statement for the Stations of the Cross on Friday in the huge Bło nia Krakowskie meadownear the old center of Kraków, for the first station. Mgr Grzegorz Ryś, who wrote the text, is also a member of the editorial office of the left tendency liberal Catholic weekly Tygodnik Powszechny and his reproach to countries that close their borders to refugees and economic migrants is not surprising. This also shows that the diversity of viewpoints is also within the Polish Church. Pope Francis talked a lot in his beautiful homilies at the Poles gathered in Częstochowa on Thursday for a Mass on the occasion of 1050 years of the Baptism of Poland, and also at the 1.5-2.5 million young (as estimated) gathered for a prayer vigil on Saturday and for Sunday starting morning mass, about the need to show his faith to give a glance at the weakest and the poorest. Urging young people from all continents not to succumb to the multiple temptations of the consumer society, he encouraged them to renounce excess comfort provided by modern life, to rise from their couch and to trust divine mercy to go to Christ despite the weaknesses of each and peer pressure.
In terms of atmosphere, I was in Krakow on Friday and Saturday and I can testify, like my friends who were there since Tuesday, that the atmosphere was happily noisy and festive with this multitude of young people. Young proud to wear their national colors and clashing often with a lot of religious songs. Young people who dare to assert their identity while loving meet other speakers of other languages and other cultures. There was an impressive crowd density, diversity and behavior. No arguments or fights, no broken windows, cars or even striped waste ground. A multiculturalism of people who respect and have in common to be turned towards Christ. The multiculturalism of the universal Church, in fact. Young people coming from different nations of the world were calling and saluted, had questions, were taking picture together and partying. Beautiful young people loving life, the opposite of hateful and violent youth of the suburbsof Islamized Western Europe. No “thugs” in Krakow, and therefore a sense of almost total security.
It is true that the Poles had not skimped on how to prevent incidents and especially any Islamist attack. Police forces were present in large numbers and very well organized, aided by gendarmes and army helicopters which observed the gathering places from the sky. But the Polish police did not have to undergo months of attacks from far-left militants, thugs of all kinds and Islamists, they were both alert and relaxed, firm and kind, often smiling, and their presence was based in Christian crowd. The French, many as seeing the flags waved above the heads, but also Italians, probably many more, Spanish, noisier, and the British, Germans, Belgians, Dutch, etc. have probably noticed the contrast with their own country: the Central European countries to the east of the former Iron Curtain, such as Poland, are countries where the state enforces the democratic order and where overwhelming majority of citizens behave in a civilized manner, and that’s why it feels better and freer.
The week of World Youth Day was preceded by a week of reception of the pilgrims in Polish parishes. Thousands of young and old accommodated in Catholic families were able to experience the hospitality of the country of John Paul II, the instigator of this WYD. “Gość w domu, Bóg w domu” says the Polish sentence, which means “A guest in the house is God in the house.” And it is true that to welcome these Catholics from elsewhere, it was as host Jesus Christ Himself for Christians. This was also the case for my Franco-Polish family because we had the joy of having with us for a week two Korean priests who accompanied a group of young people of the Kkottongnae community. Personally, we would have liked after the meeting that the next World Youth Day taking place in South Korea, but Panama was chosen, to the delight of Panamanians attending the Campus Misericordiae (Field of Mercy) of Brzegi to fifteen kilometers from KraKow, which had been held the prayer vigil and mass mailing.
The weather was not always rosy for this World Youth Day, but the joy was to go even during a few intense moments of rain. Each pilgrim had also received upon arrival a bag with, among other useful things, a rain poncho. Fortunately, the weather was mild for the night from Saturday to Sunday when most young people came to Krakow watched or slept on the Campus Misericordiae.