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On foot from Slovakia to Krakow. Headed towards the WYD to discover “all the shades of mercy”

There is great excitement amidst Slovakia’s Catholic youth groups. Poland is not that far and they consider the meeting with Pope Francis and their peers from world Countries a great opportunity, that “can change your life.” The Bishops’ Conference closely follows the initiatives of dioceses and parishes

Several hundred young boys and girls from across Slovakia have been preparing for the event, putting to the test their spiritual strength as well as their physical condition for a sole purpose: to reach Krakow on foot and celebrate the World Youth Day with Pope Francis and with hundreds of thousands of Catholic peers from world Countries. “Slovakia was a matter of the heart for John Paul II, and it would be a shame if we missed this opportunity to travel to his native Poland and meet one of his successors”, said Marek Polak, organizer of one of the pilgrimages from the city of Poprad. Along with the pilgrims, facing the adventure of walking hundreds of kilometres all the way to Krakow, several thousand Slovakian participants will be arriving at the WYD with other means of transport.

Spiritual preparation. The young have been preparing with great dedication for months in view of the great event in Krakow, in the bordering Poland. A special one-year-long spiritual preparation focused on various aspects of mercy has ended in mid June. “The WYD will be held in the city that bears the memory of the two Saints: John Paul II and Faustina Kowalska. Through their figures, their commitment, and their message to the world, we gradually discovered the many shades of mercy. All the materials prepared for Catholic youth groups are available online, including texts on catechesis, reflections, prayers and much more. We are rich with something that is far greater than us and we can wait no longer to share this dynamics and these feelings with young boys and girls from world Countries”, said Pavol Danko, author of the texts for spiritual preparation.

“Planning to take part in this youth meeting is certainly a good decision, something that can change people’s lives.”

“No theory, however valid and wise, can replace physical participation”, added Ondrej Chrvala, Secretary of the Council for Youth and University of the Slovakian Bishops’ Conference, inviting young people who lost the opportunity to register for Krakow individually.

We ask for prayers. Most of the pilgrims who decided to reach Krakow on foot are planning to follow one of the itineraries of the Ways of Santiago that pass through Slovakia.

“Upon our arrival we will already have walked more than 120 kilometers.”

“I organized a similar pilgrimage from La Verna to Assisi, in Italy, several years ago. It’s a spiritually enriching experience. Mass will be celebrated every day as part of our program and we are asking to pray for us”, Capuchin Fr Lukas told SIR. The adventure of a long spiritual journey, the taste of life in the community, the liturgy, friendship and food for thought: all of this awaits also those who will join the Dominican fathers planning to leave from Levoca July 17, to arrive in Krakow on the 27th.

Smartphone app. The Salesians in Slovakia have created a special application for mobile phones for this occasion providing updated information on the WYD and related events. According to Ondrej Chrvala, “weeks of intensive work and preparation lie ahead. Modern technologies are of great help in the events’ organization and for the interaction with participants.” The App includes prayers, quotations on the theme of mercy, letters to young people, in addition to a small Polish dictionary. “A team of clever young people devised this app. We hope it will contribute to the beautiful experience the Youth Days”, was the wish of Salesian Fr Jan Holubcik.

The bishops’ support. Youth participation in the international event in Krakow is strongly supported by all Slovakian bishops. Mons. Stefan Secka, bishop of Spis, even promoted a fund-collection in all the churches of his diocese to pay the expenses of the pilgrims on their way to Krakow. As he wrote in a dedicated letter for the event, the world youth meeting will be held near the diocese of Spis for the very first time. It’s a good reason for young boys and girls in the region to participate.

“We are living the year of Mercy. Saint John Paul II has defined this virtue as the extraordinary power of the love of God, that is greater than our sins. The love of God heals us and makes us stronger, enabling us to discover the source of true joy and hope.”

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