World Youth Day 2016 Logo Released


Last week, the Archbishop of Krakow Cardinal Stanislaus Dziwisz released the official logo and prayer of World Youth Day 2016, to take place in Krakow, Poland from July 26-31.

The logo, designed by Monika Rybczynska, a 28 year old designer and video editor from Ostrzeszow, Poland, personifies the theme of World Youth Day, taken from the Gospel of Matthew 5:7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” It includes three important elements:

“The image is composed of a geographical outline of Poland in which there is a Cross, symbol of Christ who is the soul of World Youth Day. The yellow circle marks the position of Krakow on the map of Poland and is also a symbol of youth. The flame of Divine Mercy emerges from the Cross, and its colours recall the image “Jesus, I trust in you”. The colours used in the logo – blue, red and yellow – are the official colours of Krakow and its coat of arms.”

Cardinal Dziwisz also released the official prayer of WYD Krakow. The prayer entrusts the youth to Jesus’ Divine Mercy invokes the intercession of Saint John Paul II along with the aid of the Blessed Mother. The full prayer states:

“God, merciful Father,
in your Son, Jesus Christ, you have revealed your love
and poured it out upon us in the Holy Spirit, the Comforter,
We entrust to you today the destiny of the world and of every man and woman”.
We entrust to you in a special way
young people of every language, people and nation:
guide and protect them as they walk the complex paths of the world today
and give them the grace to reap abundant fruits
from their experience of the Krakow World Youth Day.
Heavenly Father,
grant that we may bear witness to your mercy.
Teach us how to convey the faith to those in doubt,
hope to those who are discouraged,
love to those who feel indifferent,
forgiveness to those who have done wrong
and joy to those who are unhappy.
Allow the spark of merciful love
that you have enkindled within us
become a fire that can transform hearts
and renew the face of the earth.
Mary, Mother of Mercy, pray for us.
St. John Paul II, pray for us.”

The photo and logo are courtesy of

JP II, We Love You – Pope John Paul II scans crowd at WYD Denver, 1993


POPE SCANS CROWD GATHERED FOR WORLD YOUTH DAY MASS IN 1993With rosary in hand, Pope John Paul II scans the crowd as his helicopter circles Colorado’s Cherry Creek State Park before the closing Mass for World Youth Day Aug. 15, 1993. “Place your intelligence, your talents, your enthusiasm, your compassion and your fortitude at the service of life,” the pope told the hundreds of thousands of people gathered there. (CNS file photo by W. H. Keeler) 

John Paul II: The Pilgrim Pope

WYD Aus We Heart Pope

By Elizabeth Krump

In July 2008, the streets of Sydney, Australia were transformed with a swell of nearly one million young pilgrims. Despite an influx of youth, there was no vandalism, fear or fights as a result. This group of young people had gathered in solidarity to celebrate their Catholic faith at the invitation of the Holy Father.
I remember being in Sydney for the 23rd World Youth Day, singing praises and national anthems on packed trains, attending concerts and hearing renowned speaker Christopher West share John Paul II’s teaching on Theology of the Body with a sold-out audience. The enthusiasm for the faith was palpable. Everywhere I went in Sydney I crossed paths with pilgrims filled with hope. One group from East Timor had secretly traveled to WYD, risking their lives to meet the Holy Father and share in the celebration of faith.

World Youth Day is the legacy of Blessed John Paul II, who will be canonized next month on Divine Mercy Sunday. John Paul II entrusted WYD to the youth of the world as an invitation to rise up as faithful witnesses to Christ. World Youth Day gathers together youth from every country, embodying the call of the Gospel, to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” [Matt 28:19].

John Paul II himself embraced this universal call to evangelize by visiting 129 countries during his Papacy alone. As the Vicar of Christ, he became a pilgrim, bringing the heart of the Church into a world in need of salvation. I recently heard the story of a woman who had met John Paul II during his visit to Toronto in 2002. When asked to describe what he was like she said, “When you looked at him it was like looking into the eyes of Love. He exuded Christ.”

In Sydney, my group traveled with a good friend and seminarian – now priest – who took the opportunity to tell just about everyone we met that he was in the seminary. Other pilgrims would listen attentively as he took the time to share his vocation story. I now understand why they were so attracted to him. He had found the answer to the hunger for understanding, purpose and happiness that this world cannot satisfy.

During a famous homily to the people of Poland in Victory Square, 1979, Pope John Paul II said this, “[M]an is incapable of understanding himself fully without Christ. He cannot understand who he is, nor what his true dignity is, nor what his vocation is, nor what his final end is. He cannot understand any of this without Christ.”

John Paul II is described as charismatic, magnetic, joyful and courageous. He was all these things and more because he was a man whose identity was found and lived in Christ. He was a pilgrim who found Jesus in the heart of every person he encountered and loved them as Christ loved us. He embraced his cross, suffering for the greater glory of God, until the very end. This is what made him a saint.

On April 1, 2005, in the final days of his life, John Paul II said, “I have looked for you. Now you have come to me. And I thank you.” The pilgrim Pope, confined to his bed, was unable to go out into his Church. Instead, they had journeyed to be with him, gathered below in St. Peter’s Square in prayer.

On April 27, 2014, approximately 10,000 pilgrim Catholics in the Vancouver area are expected to gather at the Pacific National Exhibition grounds to celebrate the Canonization of Popes John Paul II and John XXIII. Mass will be celebrated by Archbishop Michael Miller and Most Rev. Luigi Bonazzi, Apostolic Nuncio to Canada, and there will be an opportunity to venerate sacred objects of the two saints afterward. You are invited to attend! For more information, please click here

Elizabeth Krump is a student at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, where she has been involved with Catholic Christian Outreach. Elizabeth has written for the B.C. Catholic and with two friends started Live 31 Vancouver, a blog/social group/discussion group for women trying to live their faith in the modern world.

Fr. Thomas Rosica on TFO’s Carte Visite

 TFO’s Gisele Quenneville interviews Father Thomas Rosica for her show Carte Visite. In addition to his priestly ministry, Fr.Rosica organized World Youth Day (WYD) which took place in Toronto in July 2002. Following the resignation of Pope Benedict last year, he was invited by the Vatican to join the staff of the Holy See Press Office and serve as one of the official spokespersons for the transition in the papacy that included the resignation, Sede Vacante, Conclave and election of the new Pope. He continues to assist the Holy See Press Office in strengthening and maintaining relations with English language journalists in North America and elsewhere. Father Rosica is currently the CEO of Salt and Light catholic television.

Interview released on March 16, 2014.

Message of Pope Francis for the 29th World Youth Day 2014


Vatican City, 6 February 2014 (VIS) – We publish below the full text of the message the Holy Father has sent to the young people preparing for the 29th World Youth Day 2014, which will take as its theme: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”.

Dear Young Friends,

How vividly I recall the remarkable meeting we had in Rio de Janeiro for the Twenty-eighth World Youth Day. It was a great celebration of faith and fellowship! The wonderful people of Brazil welcomed us with open arms, like the statue of Christ the Redeemer which looks down from the hill of Corcovado over the magnificent expanse of Copacabana beach. There, on the seashore, Jesus renewed his call to each one of us to become his missionary disciples. May we perceive this call as the most important thing in our lives and share this gift with others, those near and far, even to the distant geographical and existential peripheries of our world.

The next stop on our intercontinental youth pilgrimage will be in Krakow in 2016. As a way of accompanying our journey together, for the next three years I would like to reflect with you on the Beatitudes found in the Gospel of Saint Matthew. This year we will begin by reflecting on the first Beatitude: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’. For 2015 I suggest: ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God’. Then, in 2016, our theme will be: ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy’.

1. The revolutionary power of the Beatitudes

It is always a joyful experience for us to read and reflect on the Beatitudes! Jesus proclaimed them in his first great sermon, preached on the shore of the sea of Galilee. There was a very large crowd, so Jesus went up on the mountain to teach his disciples. That is why it is known as ‘the Sermon on the Mount’. In the Bible, the mountain is regarded as a place where God reveals himself. Jesus, by preaching on the mount, reveals himself to be a divine teacher, a new Moses. What does he tell us? He shows us the way to life, the way that he himself has taken. Jesus himself is the way, and he proposes this way as the path to true happiness. Throughout his life, from his birth in the stable in Bethlehem until his death on the cross and his resurrection, Jesus embodied the Beatitudes. All the promises of God’s Kingdom were fulfilled in him.

In proclaiming the Beatitudes, Jesus asks us to follow him and to travel with him along the path of love, the path that alone leads to eternal life. It is not an easy journey, yet the Lord promises us his grace and he never abandons us. We face so many challenges in life: poverty, distress, humiliation, the struggle for justice, persecutions, the difficulty of daily conversion, the effort to remain faithful to our call to holiness, and many others. But if we open the door to Jesus and allow him to be part of our lives, if we share our joys and sorrows with him, then we will experience the peace and joy that only God, who is infinite love, can give.

The Beatitudes of Jesus are new and revolutionary. They present a model of happiness contrary to what is usually communicated by the media and by the prevailing wisdom. A worldly way of thinking finds it scandalous that God became one of us and died on a cross! According to the logic of this world, those whom Jesus proclaimed blessed are regarded as useless, ‘losers’. What is glorified is success at any cost, affluence, the arrogance of power and self-affirmation at the expense of others.

Jesus challenges us, young friends, to take seriously his approach to life and to decide which path is right for us and leads to true joy. This is the great challenge of faith. Jesus was not afraid to ask his disciples if they truly wanted to follow him or if they preferred to take another path. Simon Peter had the courage to reply: ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life’. If you too are able to say ‘yes’ to Jesus, your lives will become both meaningful and fruitful.

2. The courage to be happy

What does it mean to be ‘blessed’ (makarioi in Greek)? To be blessed means to be happy. Tell me: Do you really want to be happy? In an age when we are constantly being enticed by vain and empty illusions of happiness, we risk settling for less and ‘thinking small’ when it come to the meaning of life. Think big instead! Open your hearts! As Blessed Piergiorgio Frassati once said, ‘To live without faith, to have no heritage to uphold, to fail to struggle constantly to defend the truth: this is not living. It is scraping by. We should never just scrape by, but really live’ (Letter to I. Bonini, 27 February 1925). In his homily on the day of Piergiorgio Frassati’s beatification (20 May 1990), John Paul II called him ‘a man of the Beatitudes’ (AAS 82 [1990], 1518).

If you are really open to the deepest aspirations of your hearts, you will realize that you possess an unquenchable thirst for happiness, and this will allow you to expose and reject the ‘low cost’ offers and approaches all around you. When we look only for success, pleasure and possessions, and we turn these into idols, we may well have moments of exhilaration, an illusory sense of satisfaction, but ultimately we become enslaved, never satisfied, always looking for more. It is a tragic thing to see a young person who ‘has everything’, but is weary and weak.

Saint John, writing to young people, told them: ‘You are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one’. oung people who choose Christ are strong: they are fed by his word and they do not need to ‘stuff themselves’ with other things! Have the courage to swim against the tide. Have the courage to be truly happy! Say no to an ephemeral, superficial and throwaway culture, a culture that assumes that you are incapable of taking on responsibility and facing the great challenges of life!

3. Blessed are the poor in spirit…

The first Beatitude, our theme for the next World Youth Day, says that the poor in spirit are blessed for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. At a time when so many people are suffering as a result of the financial crisis, it might seem strange to link poverty and happiness. How can we consider poverty a blessing?

First of all, let us try to understand what it means to be ‘poor in spirit’. When the Son of God became man, he chose the path of poverty and self-emptying. As Saint Paul said in his letter to the Philippians: ‘Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in human likeness’. Jesus is God who strips himself of his glory. Here we see God’s choice to be poor: he was rich and yet he became poor in order to enrich us through his poverty. His is the mystery we contemplate in the crib when we see the Son of God lying in a manger, and later on the cross, where his self-emptying reaches its culmination.

The Greek adjective ptochos (poor) does not have a purely material meaning. It means ‘a beggar’, and it should be seen as linked to the Jewish notion of the anawim, ‘God’s poor’. It suggests lowliness, a sense of one’s limitations and existential poverty. The anawim trust in the Lord, and they know that they can count on him.

As Saint Therese of the Child Jesus clearly saw, by his incarnation Jesus came among us as a poor beggar, asking for our love. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that ‘man is a beggar before God’ and that prayer is the encounter of God’s thirst and our own thirst.

Saint Francis of Assisi understood perfectly the secret of the Beatitude of the poor in spirit. Indeed, when Jesus spoke to him through the leper and from the crucifix, Francis recognized both God’s grandeur and his own lowliness. In his prayer, the Poor Man of Assisi would spend hours asking the Lord: ‘Who are you?’ ‘Who am I?’ He renounced an affluent and carefree life in order to marry ‘Lady Poverty’, to imitate Jesus and to follow the Gospel to the letter. Francis lived in imitation of Christ in his poverty and in love for the poor – for him the two were inextricably linked – like two sides of one coin.

You might ask me, then: What can we do, specifically, to make poverty in spirit a way of life, a real part of our own lives? I will reply by saying three things.

First of all, try to be free with regard to material things. The Lord calls us to a Gospel lifestyle marked by sobriety, by a refusal to yield to the culture of consumerism. This means being concerned with the essentials and learning to do without all those unneeded extras which hem us in. Let us learn to be detached from possessiveness and from the idolatry of money and lavish spending. Let us put Jesus first. He can free us from the kinds of idol-worship which enslave us. Put your trust in God, dear young friends! He knows and loves us, and he never forgets us. Just as he provides for the lilies of the field, so he will make sure that we lack nothing. If we are to come through the financial crisis, we must be also ready to change our lifestyle and avoid so much wastefulness. Just as we need the courage to be happy, we also need the courage to live simply.

Second, if we are to live by this Beatitude, all of us need to experience a conversion in the way we see the poor. We have to care for them and be sensitive to their spiritual and material needs. To you young people I especially entrust the task of restoring solidarity to the heart of human culture. Faced with old and new forms of poverty – unemployment, migration and addictions of various kinds – we have the duty to be alert and thoughtful, avoiding the temptation to remain indifferent. We have to remember all those who feel unloved, who have no hope for the future and who have given up on life out of discouragement, disappointment or fear. We have to learn to be on the side of the poor, and not just indulge in rhetoric about the poor! Let us go out to meet them, look into their eyes and listen to them. The poor provide us with a concrete opportunity to encounter Christ himself, and to touch his suffering flesh.

However – and this is my third point – the poor are not just people to whom we can give something. They have much to offer us and to teach us. How much we have to learn from the wisdom of the poor! Think about it: several hundred years ago a saint, Benedict Joseph Labre, who lived on the streets of Rome from the alms he received, became a spiritual guide to all sorts of people, including nobles and prelates. In a very real way, the poor are our teachers. They show us that people’s value is not measured by their possessions or how much money they have in the bank. A poor person, a person lacking material possessions, always maintains his or her dignity. The poor can teach us much about humility and trust in God. In the parable of the pharisee and the tax-collector, Jesus holds the tax-collector up as a model because of his humility and his acknowledgement that he is a sinner. The widow who gave her last two coins to the temple treasury is an example of the generosity of all those who have next to nothing and yet give away everything they have.

4. … for theirs is the kingdom of heaven

The central theme of the Gospel is the kingdom of God. Jesus is the kingdom of God in person; he is Immanuel, God-with-us. And it is in the human heart that the kingdom, God’s sovereignty, takes root and grows. The kingdom is at once both gift and promise. It has already been given to us in Jesus, but it has yet to be realised in its fullness. That is why we pray to the Father each day: ‘Thy kingdom come’.

There is a close connection between poverty and evangelisation, between the theme of the last World Youth Day – ‘Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations!’ – and the theme for this year: ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’. The Lord wants a poor Church which evangelises the poor. When Jesus sent the Twelve out on mission, he said to them: ‘Take no gold, nor silver, nor copper in your belts, no bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor a staff; for the labourers deserve their food’. Evangelical poverty is a basic condition for spreading the kingdom of God. The most beautiful and spontaneous expressions of joy which I have seen during my life were by poor people who had little to hold onto. Evangelisation in our time will only take place as the result of contagious joy.

We have seen, then, that the Beatitude of the poor in spirit shapes our relationship with God, with material goods and with the poor. With the example and words of Jesus before us, we realize how much we need to be converted, so that the logic of being more will prevail over that of having more! The saints can best help us to understand the profound meaning of the Beatitudes. So the canonization of John Paul II, to be celebrated on the Second Sunday of Easter, will be an event marked by immense joy. He will be the great patron of the World Youth Days which he inaugurated and always supported. In the communion of saints he will continue to be a father and friend to all of you.

This month of April marks the thirtieth anniversary of the entrustment of the Jubilee Cross of the Redemption to the young. That symbolic act by John Paul II was the beginning of the great youth pilgrimage which has since crossed the five continents. The Pope’s words on that Easter Sunday in 1984 remain memorable: ‘My dear young people, at the conclusion of the Holy Year, I entrust to you the sign of this Jubilee Year: the cross of Christ! Carry it throughout the world as a symbol of the love of the Lord Jesus for humanity, and proclaim to everyone that it is only in Christ, who died and rose from the dead, that salvation and redemption are to be found’.

Dear friends, the Magnificat, the Canticle of Mary, poor in spirit, is also the song of everyone who lives by the Beatitudes. The joy of the Gospel arises from a heart which, in its poverty, rejoices and marvels at the works of God, like the heart of Our Lady, whom all generations call ‘blessed’. May Mary, Mother of the poor and Star of the new evangelisation help us to live the Gospel, to embody the Beatitudes in our lives, and to have the courage always to be happy.

3 Reasons Young People Love the Church and What We Can Learn From Them

Polish pilgrims react as pope announces that Krakow will host World Youth Day 2016

By Elizabeth Krump

“Keep the youth close to you: they will keep you young and faithful.” These are telling words that Blessed John Paul II shared with Fr. Thomas Rosica in the later days of his pontificate. John Paul II had a great love for all young people, until the very end of his life.

There are some who suggest that the Church is dying, that our pews are emptying of young people and that faith has become a disposable good in our modern times. Blessed John Paul II believed just the opposite.

Last weekend, Fr. Tom Rosica visited Vancouver to speak about the upcoming canonization of John Paul II. As he spoke of the life of this modern day saint, he reminded his audience that the young people of today who do fill our churches are very serious about their Catholic faith. One only has to Google images of Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro from July 2013 to get a sense of the young Church, alive.

Here are three reasons why I believe young adults take their faith seriously:

  1. We are ambitious. We have high ideals. We like to challenge the impossible and we want to change the world. This is part of our Catholic calling! Pope Francis said it clearly at the Prayer Vigil during WYD in Rio, “Your young hearts want to build a better world…. It is the young who want to be the protagonists of change… Through you the future is fulfilled in the world.” The mission of the Church is not fulfilled until Christ has been proclaimed to the ends of the earth (Matthew 28:19). Talk about an ambitious Church. We fit right in!
  2. We are curious. We have a desire to know about our world, ourselves and God. We will break our bank accounts to travel to new places to see them first hand. We like to take on new hobbies, meet new people, try new foods. The Catholic Church has a depth to it that allows us to keep asking questions… and it also has answers to the deepest questions of our hearts.
  3. We are passionate. The Catholic faith is founded on self-less love and zealous missionary disciples. When we discover our identity in Christ – our calling to be witnesses in word and action – that same passion, joy and zeal in every area of life are even more real to us because we have the hope of eternal life.

Today too, as always, the Lord needs you, young people, for his Church… he is calling each of you to follow him in his Church and to be missionaries. The Lord is calling you today!”

Pope Francis, Prayer Vigil at WYD Rio


Elizabeth Krump is a student at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, where she has been involved with Catholic Christian Outreach. Elizabeth has written for the B.C. Catholic and with two friends started Live 31 Vancouver, a blog/social group/discussion group for women trying to live their faith in the modern world.

CNS photo/Paul Haring
Polish pilgrims in Rio de Janeiro cheer as Pope Francis announces that World Youth Day 2016 will take place in Krakow, Poland. 

Remembering World Youth Day Denver

In light of the 20th anniversary of World Youth Day Denver, which drew more than 750,000 people to the Mile High City, I’m sharing the following photos from Catholic News Service with you. Many priests, religious and lay people attribute their vocations to an experience they had at Denver. In fact, reflecting 20 years later on the momentous event, Denver’s Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila said Pope John Paul’s visit remains a blessing and a gift to Colorado and the world. With that in mind, we start with a pic of Pope John Paul greeting young people at Denver’s Mile High Stadium in 1993.

1993 file photo of Blessed John Paul II in Denver for World Youth Day

Next, find two images from the anniversary gathering that was held just over a week ago. Below people gather at the John Paul II Center for the New Evangelization to mark the anniversary.

People gather at archdiocesan center to mark 20th anniversary of World Youth Day Denver

Colorado teens Kinga Steczko, Susana Delgado and Fernando De La Rosa take part in the celebration at the Center.

People gather at archdiocesan center to mark 20th anniversary of World Youth Day Denver

Having just returned from WYD Rio, I know that this past World Youth Day has changed many lives as well. When I think back to World Youth Day Toronto and Madrid, I now recognize these events as turning points in my own spiritual journey towards Christ. The Lord always invites us to be gathered together, to celebrate the great grace of the Church’s presence in the world and as we journey towards the next in Kraków, Poland I can’t wait to see what unfolds.

CNS photo/Joe Rimkus Jr.
CNS photo/Daniel Petty

Go; without fear; to serve

Closing Mass
Those were the three thoughts Pope Francis left with us during the Closing Mass on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro. This was the climax of the week, when we gather for the source and summit of our Faith. And after a week of surprises and simple, yet powerful messages, these three thoughts summarised it all: We are called to be more than just disciples; we are called to be missionaries. That means that we have to be protagonists. We can’t be content with sitting in the back row, or staying up in the balconies letting others be the protagonists of change. We need to get down onto the streets. The doors of the Church need to stay open, not so that people can come in, but so that we can go out and go get all those people who aren’t coming. We need to go encounter them. We need to go.

But that can be scary. Let’s always remember that we are not alone. Christ goes with us. So does Mary and we also walk with the Saints. The Cross can be scary too, but we do not carry it alone. Christ carries it with us. Christ walks with us (sometimes He carries us), but we are never alone. We have to go without fear – especially the young. You may think that you are not prepared or not quite ready to go, but remember that the best tool to evangelise a young person is another young person!

And why do we go? Why do we have to trust the One who is in control? To make disciples of all nations. How do we make disciples? We go and serve. We go and love. That is the theology of encounter that Pope Francis will be remembered for.

It’s a simple and clear message. But it is one that we can continue to unpack for years to come.

Join us in re-living the Mass of Sending Forth, the Closing Mass of WYD Rio 2013.

Sunday, Aug 18 at 8:30pm ET / 5:30pm PT
Monday, Aug 19 at 12:30am ET / 9:30pm (Sun) PT

And also, continue reliving WYD 2013 with us throughout next week, as we re-broadcast the three National Gatherings that took place at the Vivo Rio Center for English-Speaking Pilgrims (see our schedule for details), as well as our hour-long WYD Central Rio Wrap-Up Show, which will air on Friday, August 23 at 9pm ET (6pm PT).

Remember that you can watch all our WYD programming as well as anything and everything to do with World Youth Days at WYD Central.

Photo: CNS photo/Paul Haring

Reliving WYD 2013 – Vigil on Copacabana Beach


The final days of World Youth Day Rio were an exercise is letting God surprise us all. Days of rain made the field at Guaratiba unusable and the final events were moved to Copacabana Beach. Cariocas (residents of Rio) are used to having parties on the beach. They have two giant parties there every year: New Year’s and Carnaval. This party, this celebration of faith took everyone by surprise: there was no violence, no fighting, no drunkenness, no destruction of property, just joyful celebration. Many locals commented in the following days how they had never witnessed a celebration of this type on the beach. That was certainly a fruit of WYD for the city.

Who could forget the moment, during the vigil proper, when the monstrance was brought out with the Blessed Sacrament. Over a million and a half people dropped to their knees on the beach. The image was powerful, a wave of adoration. For me the most powerful image though, were the singers on the altar during that period. The first thing singers are taught by vocal coaches is that they must stand in order to breathe the right way to create beautiful sound. Yet these two women were on their knees, microphones in hand.

Relive the Vigil experience on Salt and Light this weekend:

Saturday, Aug 17 at 8:30pm ET / 5:30pm PT
Sunday, Aug 18 at
12:30am ET / 9:30pm (Sat) PT


(CNS Photo/ Paul Haring)

Let’s Welcome Pope Francis to Rio – again!

Pilgrims react as pope arrives for World Youth Day welcoming ceremony on Copacabana beach in Rio

The Papal Welcoming Ceremony kicks off what some call the World Youth Day Triduum. The event is celebrated on the Thursday evening before the Way of the Cross (Friday evening), Vigil (Saturday evening) and Closing Mass (Sunday morning). The Papal Welcome is a highlight for many pilgrims; there’s always lots of excitement and given that this was Pope Francis’ first visit to South America as the first South American pontiff in history it was, well, historic.

During the ceremony representatives from each continent address the Holy Father and usually present him with a gift. This part of the ceremony is always interesting as we get to hear about the concerns and hopes of youth from across the globe. This year, as I watched with rapt attention I was gladdened to realize that the delegate representing Africa was speaking in Afrikaans! The pilgrim, Liam Smithers, was a fellow South African.

But it got better, later that evening after the broadcast, as the S+L team made its way on foot back to the hotel through throngs of pilgrims, we saw the South African who met the Pope! We couldn’t believe it. In a sea of hundreds of thousands of pilgrims, there he was. So the team ran up to him and interviewed him on the spot. Still beaming with happiness, Liam Smithers shared his experience with us. He said that to his surprise the Pope spoke to him in English and humbly asked Liam (this made Liam chuckle with delight during the telling) to pray for him and just before they parted the Pope reminded him, “now, don’t forget to pray!”. It was a fitting conclusion to a memorable evening.

The Papal Welcoming Ceremony in Rio will remain a personal highlight.

To enjoy the reliving the Papal Welcoming Ceremony tune in on Thursday, Aug 15 at 8:30pm ET / 5:30pm PT and Friday, Aug 16 at 12:30am & 1:00pm ET / 9:30pm (Thurs) & 10:00am PT.

If you’d like to see the interview with Liam Smithers, the South African pilgrim who met the Pope, you can watch our World Youth Day Wrap-Up show.

CNS photo: Paul Haring
Pilgrims react as Pope Francis arrives for the World Youth Day welcoming ceremony on Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro July 25. During his first meeting with massive numbers of pilgrims, the pope told the young people that it is always good to be gathered around Jesus and to keep Jesus at the center of their lives.