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Updates from WYD Kraków: Day 1 at the KofC Mercy Centre

Day 1: Kraków “City of Saints” reflection Panel and the Australian and Canadian National Gatherings headline July 26 events at the KofC-sponsored Mercy Centre

Tuesday July 26, 2016

On Tuesday morning, before the doors opened for all pilgrims, the Mercy Centre was blessed by Archbishop William Lori who said to all present volunteers, “The celebration to come will show that those who fear and love God know that in all things — in all times and places — God must be glorified.” A reading from St. Paul reminded the volunteers that they are God’s co-workers, that God’s grace provides for them the foundation for their lives, and that they must build upon that foundation.

Archbishop Lori also thanked the Knights of Columbus for co-sponsoring the arena, “which will challenge not only the youth that pass through, but priests and sisters as well, to become better agents of mercy in our world.” Following the blessing, he celebrated Mass for all Mercy Centre volunteers in the adoration chapel of the arena, during which he encouraged the group to take the opportunity to grow in peace and love throughout the week’s events.

Doors to the arena opened for pilgrims at 8 a.m., with youth from Australia pouring in. The exuberance of the performers on the main stage flowed out into the crowd of pilgrims, who had spent more than 36 hours traveling to Kraków. Thousands of Australians danced and cheered against the backdrop of the World Youth Day theme song. A period of prayer and an ‘exchange of mercy’ was extended by the Archbishop Mark Edwards, O.M.I., of Melbourne while witness, scripture, celebration and music were shared by Australian singer-songwriters Father Rob Galea and Genevieve Bryant.

The relics of St. John Paul II, Bl. Jerzy Popiełuszko, St. Faustina Kowalska, Br. Albert Chmielowski and St. Maximilian Kolbe were processed through the arena and placed on the altar on the main stage. The stories of these saints were shared during the Kraków City of Saints Reflection panel, led by George Weigel, Mother Mary Agnes Donovan, S.V., Fr. Thomas Rosica, C.S.B. and moderator Dr. Michael Luczewski.

During the panel, the youth were reminded that people are not born saints - they become them. Even Pope John Paul II, according to Mother Agnes, “was no different from you. He was trying to understand what God was calling him to do. He too struggled." In a Q & A after the panel reflection, George Weigel said that while an event like World Youth Day is “not going to argue people out of [the current] confusion,” it can inspire “Biblical faith, and that is only going to come from Biblical witness” much like the witness of the Polish saints.

Throughout the day, the seats on many levels of the arena were transformed into areas of reconciliation. The distinct purple stole of the Church's penitential season was seen draped around the necks of the many priests available to hear confession — the scene bore witness to the transformative effect of WYD and Christ’s merciful love.

Later that morning, the Canadians arrived at the Mercy Centre to mark the feast day of Sts. Joachim and Anne, the patrons of the province of Quebec. Like Anne and Joachim, who suffered years of sterility before becoming the parents of the Blessed Mother, the gathering focused on the joys and struggles of relationships, love and marriage. An English-speaking married couple from Ontario (who met while volunteering for WYD 2002 in Toronto) shared their witness, along with a French-speaking couple from Quebec. Father Rosica emceed the event while the Primate of Canada, Cardinal Gérald Lacroix, presided the celebration, sharing the message of love and faith. The Canadian singer and eight-time Grammy nominee Matt Maher made a surprise appearance at the gathering, leading the excited crowd in song with his hit, "Lord I need you."

Witness the excitement of the pilgrims first hand by visiting #WYDMercyCenter - the Mercy Centre’s social media stream and watch all main stage events at the Mercy Centre live at wydenglishsite.org/live.