Pope Francis in Poland, July 27 – 31, 2016

Source: FSSPX News

At the opening Mass of World Youth Day 2016, on the site of Blonie in Krakow.

The Pope’s latest Apostolic trip took place from July 27th to 31st, 2016, on the occasion of the World Youth Days event held in Krakow, Poland. “Everything in this jubilee year will be under the sign of mercy,” he announced on July 19, “and in grateful and loyal memory of St. John Paul II, the architect of the World Youth Days, and the guide of the Polish people on its recent historic voyage towards freedom.”  

On July 27, Francis left Rome, arriving in Krakow in the late afternoon. He addressed President Andrzej Duda, the civil authorities and the diplomatic corps in Wawel Castle. The Pope expressed the hope they would acquire “additional wisdom and mercy, to overcome their fears and accomplish the greatest good,” despite Polish opposition to migrants.

Migrants and the divorced and “remarried”

The Pope then spoke privately with the head of state. Next, he went to the cathedral of Krakow to meet with 130 Polish bishops behind closed doors. He was welcomed by Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, Archbishop of Krakow and former private secretary to John Paul II, and he spoke on the laicization of Europe, on works of mercy, on integrating movements into parish life, and on welcoming refugees, according to Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, president of the Polish Bishops’ Conference and Archbishop of Poznan. On the topic of refugees, the Polish prelate reported, the Pope encouraged the bishops to conform to “the Gospel, which teaches us to help the afflicted.”

A few hours after Pope Francis’ arrival in Krakow, Archbishop Gadecki clarified that the Polish Church would refuse Communion to the divorced and remarried. “The question of Communion for the divorced and remarried cannot be resolved in a confessional in two minutes or even in several years.” “Priests and laypersons must understand the same process, understanding that if a marriage has been validly carried out, there is no reason to allow the divorced and remarried to receive communion,” he added. The Archbishop quoted John Paul II’s writings on the family, forbidding the divorced and remarried from receiving the Eucharist, recalling that “we cannot deliberately override Christ’s precepts concerning divorce.”

Archbishop Gadecki’s intervention at the time of the Synod on the Family in October 2015 comes to mind, in the name of “the entire Polish bishops’ conference”: “The Church, nonetheless, in its teaching on access to Holy Communion for the civilly divorced and ‘remarried’, cannot bend to the will on man but only to the will of Christ. Hence, the Church cannot allow itself to be conditioned by sentiments of false compassion for individuals nor by erroneous modes of thought, even if they are widespread in the current context. Granting access to Holy Communion for those who continue to cohabit more uxorio without a sacramental bond would be in contradiction to the Tradition of the Church.” (see DICI no. 314, 24/04/15) 

On July 28, Pope Francis visited the convent of the Sisters of the Presentation before travelling to Czestochowa in southern Poland. At the monastery of Jasna Gora, he prayed in the chapel of the Black Madonna before the icon painted by St. Luke before celebrating Mass for the 1050th anniversary of the conversion of Poland. In front of several thousand faithful and in the presence of President Andrzej Duda and the Prime Minister, Catholic Beata Maria Szydło, the Pope recalled that the history of Poland, “interwoven with the Gospel, the Cross, and fidelity to the Church, has seen the positive contagiousness of an authentic faith, transmitted from family to family, from father to son, and especially through mothers and grandmothers, who are greatly to be thanked.” Inviting the faithful to turn towards “the Mother of us all,” the Sovereign Pontiff emphasized that in “Mary we find perfect correspondence with the Lord,” and desired “that she might obtain the superabundance of the Spirit for us, that we may be good and faithful servants.”

In the afternoon, back in Krakow, Pope Francis met with thousands of young people gathered in the rain in Jordan Park in Blonia. Several times, as is his custom, he conversed with the crowd and had them repeat a number of expressions. He warned young people against “sellers of false illusions,” encouraged them to “a new life,” the key to which “cannot be purchased,” which is “not an object,” but “a person, called Jesus Christ.” “During these World Youth Days, Jesus wants to enter our houses, into the heart of each one of us,” the Pope continued; “Jesus will see our concerns, our worries, as He did with Martha… and He will wait until we listen to Him as Mary did,” he stated. The Pope concluded by saying that “all together, let us ask the Lord, let each one repeat in his heart silently, Lord, launch us into the adventure of Your mercy!” On July 29th, Francis flew 60 km west of Krakow by helicopter, to the concentration camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau, in Oświęcim. The Pope paid his respects in silence and made no address. Seated alone on a bench, he prayed for a quarter hour at the spot where Fr. Maximilian Kolbe offered to take the place of a father of a family who was condemned to death on July 29, 1941. Then, alone, he entered the cell where the holy priest died on August 14, 1941. Welcomed by Beata Maria Szydło, Polish Prime Minister, the Pope greeted a group of approximately ten survivors and signed Auschwitz’s visitor book in Spanish, “Lord, have mercy on your people. Lord, forgive us for so much cruelty.” In Birkenau, a thousand people awaited him before the monument of nations, for a moment of prayer, including the De Profundis sung in Hebrew by a rabbi and read by the parish priest of Markowa.

Back in Krakow, in the course of a visit to the University Pediatric Hospital of Krakow-Prokocim, Pope Francis condemned our society “polluted by the culture of ‘rejection’, which is the contrary of the culture of welcoming,” and encouraged a “true civilization, both human and Christian,” which puts “in the centre of social and political attention the most deprived.”  

Pope Francis prays the Marian shrine of Jasna Gora in Czestochowa, July 28, 2016.

The Pope then went to the park of Blonia for the Via Crucis, the Way of the Cross, and meditated on the 14 works of mercy, corporal and spiritual. “Faced with evil, with suffering, with sin, the only response possible for the disciple of Jesus is the gift of self, even one’s life, in imitation of Christ; the attitude of service,” the Pope told the faithful. 

A permanently “outgoing” Church 

On July 30th, the Sovereign Pontiff visited the sanctuary of Divine Mercy of Krakow and heard the confessions of five young people before celebrating Mass in the Sanctuary John Paul II. Addressing himself to Polish priests, religious, and seminarians, Francis stated that in telling us: “’As the Father hath sent me, I also send you’ (John 20:21), Jesus wishes, from the beginning on, that the Church be outgoing.” In other words, Jesus wants His apostles to “go out to spread the pardon and the peace of God, through the power of the Holy Spirit.” And he adds that “the lives of His most intimate disciples, which we are called to be, is made of love in the concrete, that is of service and availability” for those “who are in need,” “the sick and the migrant,” and “the faithful who are confided to us,” with the help of the Blessed Virgin.

On the topic of the “outgoing” Church, the Pope spoke, on June 17, to participants at the last plenary meeting of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, soon to be replaced by the new Dicastery for the Laity, Families, and Life on September 1st (see DICI no. 337, 17/06/16). It is above all, Radio Vatican says, on one idea that Francis insists: “going out.” The Church today, must be permanently outgoing, as a community of evangelization, invoking as a “point of reference” the motto, “Outgoing Church – outgoing laity.” “Lift up your eyes,” the Pope exhorted, “and see ‘outside’ towards the many ‘distances’ of our world, the many families in difficulty, (…) all the fields of the apostolate as yet unexplored.” “We need a well-formed laity, animated by a sincere and limpid faith,” he added, before improvising, “We need laity who take risks, who get their hands dirty, who are not afraid to make mistakes, who take the lead.”

The eve of the closing of the World Youth Days, Francis presided over the beginning of an evening event 12 km out of Krakow, in the fields rechristened Campus Misericordiae for the occasion. After hearing a Polish woman, a former fashion journalist, tell of her conversion, a Syrian from Aleppo tell of her sufferings, and a Paraguayan speak about his time in jail, the Pope invited the young people to make it so that the sufferings of others do not remain “anonymous.” “To follow Jesus,” he continued, “we must make up our minds to exchange the couch for a pair of walking shoes,” to know the “joy born of the love of God.” He hoped that young people would put on “cleats.”

After asking young people to build bridges rather than walls, the Pope invited everyone to hold hands, claiming that “multiculturalism” cannot be “a threat,” but rather “an opportunity.”

On Sunday July 31, Pope Francis celebrated the closing Mass at Campus Misericordiae. “Do not be afraid,” he said, quoting from John Paul II, “do not be discouraged: smiling, with open arms, preach hope and be a blessing for the unique human family that you are representing here so well.” Amongst all their contacts and Internet chats, the Pope asked young people to put “the golden thread of prayer in first place.”

Back from Poland, on the plane that transported him home to Rome, Pope Francis took questions from journalists and explained his view of the attacks that took place in the name of Islam. With regard to the fact that he never speaks of Islamics or Moslems when he comments on attacks nonetheless committed in the name of Islam, but only speaks generally of “terrorists,” Francis responded in a somewhat disjointed manner: “If I speak of Islamic violence, I must speak of Catholic violence. No, not all Moslems are violent, and not all Catholics are violent. It is like in mixed vegetables: there is some of everything… There are violent persons in every religion…”

On fundamentalism, the Pope added, in the same off-the-cuff style, “When fundamentalism comes to the point of killing… but one can kill with the tongue, as the apostle St. James says, it is not I who says so. One can also kill with the knife, no?” And in conclusion, he stated, “I believe it is not just to identify Islam with violence, it is not just and it is not true. I had a long conversation with the grand imam of the university Al-Azhar and I know what they think. They seek peace and common ground.”