The Pope made no concessions to the huge crowd of over a million and a half young people who waited all night at the Campus Misericordiae. He did not sweeten reality – which is sometimes tragic – in the three speeches from the window of the archbishopric, the same window of John Paul II: “People may judge you to be dreamers.” The “fault” ascribed to the “people” of the WYD is to believe “in a new humanity, one that rejects hatred between peoples, one that refuses to see borders as barriers and can cherish its own traditions without being self-centred or small-minded.” “Don’t be discouraged!”, was the invitation of Pope Francis, full of hope: “with a smile and open arms, you proclaim hope and you are a blessing for our one human family.” Ever since the official opening of the 31st WYD, during the welcoming ceremony at Blonia Park, Francis expressed his profound token of trust towards the “young faces” of Mercy:
“Today the Church looks to you, the world looks to you, and wants to learn from you.” Seeing you again in Panama, in three years.
Francis quoted from Zacchaeus; he referred first to his “smallness of stature”, to explain to the youths gathered at the Campus Misericordiae that “not to accept ourselves, to live glumly, to be negative, is like walking away when God wants to look at me.” “God loves you for what you are, not for what you possess.” No matter which clothes you wear or the cell phone you use, God “is always on our side.” It is to our “supportive” God that Francis invites the faithful to turn to every morning:
“Lord, I thank you for loving me; help me to be in love with my own life!”
Thus, say no to “the paralysis of shame.” Instead, say yes to a “healthy curiosity” that help us even face “the risk of appearing completely ridiculous.” It is the secret risk of joy, as the Pope told the youths on many occasions. If you stay still, you will be caught “in the mire of sin and discontent.” When we stand before Jesus we should “take a risk”, we can respond by “texting.” We must have the courage to say a firm “no” “to the narcoting of success at all costs”, without letting “our soul grow numb.” Francis’ advice to young people follows the style of digital technology:
“Download” the best ‘link’ of all, that of a heart which sees and transmits goodness without growing weary.” In all the “contacts” and “chats” of each day, pride of place be given to the golden thread of prayer! Let the Gospel serve as a “compass”. God’s memory “is not a hard disk.”
The Prayer Vigil of the previous day in the same place, is a “Q & A session” with young pilgrims, who, thank to the testimony of Rand, from Aleppo, male us realise that “for us, here, today, coming from different parts of the world, the suffering and the wars that many young people experience are no longer anonymous, something we read about in the papers. They have a name, they have a face, they have a story, they are close at hand.”
The WYD is not an island, the Pope seems to say when mentioning, on many occasions, the recent world developments. As when in one of the two “unplanned” events of the papal journey – the other was the visit to the hospital where Cardinal Macharski is being treated -, he read a prayer against terrorism in St. Francis’ church. Fear leads to closure and “paralysis”, probably “one of the most harmful forms of paralysis in life.”
We didn’t come into this world to “vegetate”, but to leave a mark. Say no to life as a “comfortable sofa to sleep on.” Say yes to “a pair of walking shoes”, to be protagonists, not reserves.
Like Maciek, the twenty-two year-old volunteer who died of cancer before fulfilling his plan of travelling to Krakow. Francis remembered him in one of the three speeches from the Papal window at 3, Franciszkanka street. The other two addresses were devoted to the three golden words for the family “please-thank you – I’m sorry” – and to the echoes of the Day of Remembrance and silence marking his visit to the two concentration camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau:
“Cruelty did not end in Auschwitz”,
the Pope said from the window, and the image-symbol of July 29, that of the third Pope to cross the gates of the world’s most notorious place of horror. Unlike John Paul II, son of Poland, and Benedict XVI, son of Germany, the first Latin-American Pope in the history of the Church chose silence.
The image of Francis that crosses alone, on foot, the infamous gate with the inscription “Arbeit Macht Frei” will remain one of the memorable snapshots of his 15th international journey, begun in the name of St. John Paul II. As soon as he set foot in Poland, Francis expressed the “dream of a new European humanism” evoked by his predecessor with the image of a Europe that “breathes with two lungs”, and both in Blonia Park and at Campus Misericordiae he assured that the Polish Pope ” is watching us from heaven.”
In the homily for the Mass celebrated at the Shrine dedicated to St. John Paul II in Lagiewnicki, Francis voiced one of Karol Wojtyla’s most famous exhortations:
“Open the doors!”
“Listen, get involved and be neighbours”, was the Pope’s threefold appeal during the Mass marking the 1.050th anniversary of the baptism of Pope, when, starting from the “Marian thread” coming from the image of the Black Madonna of Jasna Gora, Francis asked for the grace “to imitate her sensitivity and her creativity in serving those in need, and to know how beautiful it is to spend our lives in the service of others, without favourites or distinctions.” He is thinking of the youths, his youths, those to whom he asked – during the Celebration for Italian pilgrims – to act as “human bridges” and – in the closing Mass – to create “primordial bridges.” Simply by holding each other’s hands. The “wave” has started. “Memory, courage and hope”, is the final appeal to the volunteers. Today, Panama is closer.