Pilgrims were woken by the sun rising on Sunday morning, many were surprised to have slept so well (perhaps we have the 10 mile walk to thank!) and others had enjoyed spending the night talking with others about their experiences of World Youth Day.
In his homily, Pope Francis reflected on the gospel at Mass, ‘Dear young people, you have come to Krakow to meet Jesus. Today’s Gospel speaks to us of just such a meeting between Jesus and a man named Zacchaeus, in Jericho (cf. Lk 19:1-10). There Jesus does not simply preach or greet people; as the Evangelist tells us, he passed through the city. In other words, Jesus wants to draw near to us personally, to accompany our journey to its end, so that his life and our life can truly meet.’
Returning to the theme of this World Youth Day, ‘Blessed are the merciful’, Pope Francis told young pilgrims, ‘don’t be ashamed to bring everything to the Lord in confession, especially your weaknesses, your struggles and your sins. He will surprise you with his forgiveness and his peace. Don’t be afraid to say “yes” to him with all your heart, to respond generously and to follow him! Don’t let your soul grow numb, but aim for the goal of a beautiful love which also demands sacrifice. Say a firm “no” to the narcotic of success at any cost and the sedative of worrying only about yourself and your own comfort.’
Sending pilgrims out into the world, Pope Francis encouraged them to take with them, and live, all that they had learnt in the last week, ‘We can say that World Youth Day begins today and continues tomorrow, in your homes, since that is where Jesus wants to meet you from now on. The Lord doesn’t want to remain in this beautiful city, or in cherished memories alone. He wants to enter your homes, to dwell in your daily lives: in your studies, your first years of work, your friendships and affections, your hopes and dreams. How greatly he desires that you bring all this to him in prayer! How much he hopes that, in all the contacts and chats of each day, pride of place be given to the golden thread of prayer!’
As proceedings came to a close, Pope Francis made the announcement that we had all been waiting for: the 2019 World Youth Day would be hosted in….Panama! The President of Panama was present at the Mass where the country the country was blessed by Pope Francis. Panama has a population of 4 million, 90% of which are Catholic.
Pilgrims returned home exhausted, but inspired and renewed by their experiences in Krakow, the people they met, the conversations they had and in the knowledge that they are not alone in their desire to love God and to change the world through mercy.