CS PHOTO BY JACLYN LIPPELMANN Pope Francis addresses World Youth Day pilgrims at a July 28 welcoming ceremony in Kraków.
CS PHOTO BY JACLYN LIPPELMANN Pope Francis addresses World Youth Day pilgrims at a July 28 welcoming ceremony in Kraków.
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Pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Washington were among the estimated 1 million young people who gathered in Kraków’s Blonia Park July 28 to officially welcome Pope Francis to World Youth Day.

They greeted the pope – who arrived at the park in his popemobile – with thunderous applause and cheers.

“At last, we are together,” the pope said as Washington area pilgrims and others from around the world shouted their greeting to the Holy Father.

He told those gathered at the park that “mercy has a youthful face,” and promised that “we are going to make this World Youth Day an authentic Jubilee celebration.”

He also told pilgrims that it is Jesus who can offer them a fulfilling life.

“Are you looking for empty thrills in life, or do you want to feel a power that can give you a lasting sense of life and fulfillment? Which one do you want: empty thrills or the power of grace?” Pope Francis asked. He then said, “To find fulfillment, to gain new strength, there is a way. It cannot be sold, it cannot be bought, it is not a thing, nor an object. It is a person: His name is Jesus Christ.”

Pope Francis encouraged the youths to look to Jesus to find a “true passion for life” and to discover “the adventure of mercy.”

“Here we are, Lord! Send us to share your merciful love,” Pope Francis said. “We want to affirm that our lives are fulfilled when they are shaped by mercy, for that is the better part and it will never be taken from us.”

Pilgrims waited under stormy skies to greet the pope. He told the young people gathered at the park that “Today the Church, and I would add the world, looks to you and wants to learn from you, to be reassured that the Father’s mercy has an ever-youthful face and constantly invites us to be part of His kingdom.”

Upon arriving at the park, the pope was greeted by Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, the archbishop fo Kraków and the former secretary to Saint John Paul II. Young people from Europe, North America, South America, Africa, Asia and Australia greeted the pope with dances and songs.

“Nothing is more beautiful than seeing the enthusiasm, dedication, zeal and energy with which so many young people live their lives,” the pope said.

Pope Francis also thanked Saint John Paul II for beginning World Youth Day. “From heaven, he is with us, and he sees all of you: So many young people from such a variety of nations, cultures and languages, but with one goal: that of rejoicing that Jesus is in our midst.”

Later today, Friday, July 29, Pope Francis will visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau Nazi death camp in nearby Oswiecim. Washington area pilgrims visited the site earlier this week. Also today, the Holy Father will preside over an evening Way of the Cross at Blonia Park.

Follow World Youth Day Events and Kraków in the Capital events online at the Catholic Standard website, on Facebook, and on Twitter. Find live updates daily on the Archdiocese of Washington World Youth Day website, on Facebook and on Twitter. World Youth Day updates can be found on social media using the hashtags #WYDvoices4peace#Krakow2016; and #USApilgrim.