The excitement of World Youth Day 2016 continued today as we gathered with other Irish pilgrims for catechesis and Mass led and celebrated by Bishop Malone of Buffalo and other the other Irish Bishops present there. Our Meath pilgrims were overjoyed to meet up with friends from other parts of Ireland as were our own priests who caught up with their friends from seminary.
Bishop Malone spoke on the theme of Mercy answering the questions put to him by pilgrims, taking the theme song from an Officer and a Gentleman to answer one: "Love lifts us up where we belong". It was an image he returned to as he preached on the Gospel account of the encounter between Jesus and Woman about to be Stoned to Death, as His words lifted her up to where she belonged in God's eyes, challenging us to "Know Mercy and not a No to Mercy".
Soaking up the festival atmosphere and opportunities of prayer and sightseeing that this beautiful city, the City of Saints has given us, was part and parcel of the sunny afternoon today, stopping of course for a pilgrim lunch.
The atmosphere became a lot more sombre, as we made our way to Auschwitz Concentration Camp. It was very much a desire of our pilgrims, many months ago, to make this a part of our pilgrimage. The horror of what happened there brought us to silence, reflecting on the terrible inhumanity of that place. It also brought our group to prayer, seeking in God the reason of why it happened and how we as young Catholics can work together to live the Lord's words in a greater way and for a better future "Whenever you do this to the least of mine, you do it to me".
Meanwhile, Bishop Denis Nulty delivered a reflection at the prayer service took place in the parish of Kazimierz which is also the host parish for many of the Irish pilgrims.
Speaking to the young people, he said: "Tourists pass through places, they seek out the ‘old town’; pilgrims pass through places, seeking out the new kingdom of mercy, love and peace. May we find that as we travel our journey accompanying Pope Francis over the next number of days. As important as our days of preparation were leading up to World Youth Day 2016, even more important will be the energy and enthusiasm we bring home as we unpack (not our bags, because we have brought very little!) but our experiences as we enliven and energise our local parish communities who have tremendously supported this journey."
(Fr Kevin Heery)