Sussex Catholics among three million in Krakow

World Youth Day pilgrims at the Saturday Vigil Picture: Arundel and Brighton Diocese
World Youth Day pilgrims at the Saturday Vigil Picture: Arundel and Brighton Diocese

Young Catholics from across Sussex were among three million people who gathered for a week of prayer and faith.

A group of 49 pilgrims from the Arundel and Brighton Diocese, led by Horsham parish priest Fr Aaron Spinelli, was part of World Youth Day 2016 in Poland.

One of the largest gatherings in the world, the event includes a week of activities, culminating in Sunday Mass with the Pope.

Diocese youth adviser Jack Regan said: “By the end of the week, it was clear that the week had affected everyone. Before they left, they talked about how they are going to continue what had been started back home.

“During his homily on the Saturday night, Pope Francis challenged those present not to be stay ‘on the couch’. It’s tempting, he remarked, but in reality it limits our freedom and stifles who we really are. If we want to see a change in the world, we have to bring the best version of ourselves that we can - a great challenge for young people everywhere.”

World Youth Day started in the mid-1980s, the brainchild of Pope Saint John Paul II. In the UK, it is marked with National Youth Sunday in the autumn but every two or three years, there is a huge international gathering, this time in Krakow.

Jack added: “Krakow is synonymous with Saint John Paul, the founder of World Youth Day. This festival gave us not only a chance to celebrate him but also to focus on the city that produced him, together with its rich Catholic heritage.”

Fr Simon Dray said mass for the Arundel and Brighton Diocese travellers at the Christian Education Centre in Crawley before they set off.

A four-hour delay at the Polish border gave the group a great chance to mix with thousands of other pilgrims in the same boat.

The week included three large events, attended by everyone, punctuated by many smaller ones.

The Saturday Vigil was attended by three million Catholics from across the world. Picture: Arundel and Brighton Diocese

The Saturday Vigil was attended by three million Catholics from across the world. Picture: Arundel and Brighton Diocese

“The Opening Mass, in particular, gave them their first taste of huge crowds and their first chance to explore the themes of WYD,” Jack said.

There was teaching in the morning and festival activities put on around the city for the rest of the day.

Groups started heading to Campus Misericordiae on the Saturday morning, ready for the Sunday Mass.

Jack explained: “Since it’s impossible to get that many people in to an area in the space of a few hours, the tradition has developed at WYD that you file in throughout the Saturday and sleep out overnight.

“It’s not the most comfortable night’s sleep in your life but definitely one of the most memorable. The sleep is bookended by a prayer vigil with the Holy Father on the Saturday evening and the Mass the next day.”

Mr Spinelli and four other chaplains from the diocese were on hand throughout the week to explain what was going on, hear confessions and celebrate Mass.

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