Pope Francis celebrated the closing Mass of World Youth Day (WYD) 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Sunday. Prior to the end of the Mass, the pope announced that the next WYD will be celebrated in 2016, in Krakow, Poland. Blessed Pope John Paul II, soon to be canonized a saint, served as Archbishop of Krakow for 15 years before his election to the papacy in 1978.
John Paul II originated World Youth Day in 1986, in Rome, at the diocesan level. The first international WYD was held in 1987 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the home of Pope Francis, who served as that city’s archbishop as Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio prior to his elevation to the papacy in March.
Pope Francis then prayed the Angelus, a practice of devotion to Mary, the mother of Jesus, and celebration of the Incarnation, the announcement to Mary by an angel that she would conceive the Son of God.
“Through Our Lady’s maternal intercession, let us ask for the light of the Holy Spirit upon the journey that will lead us to this next stage in our joyful celebration of faith and the love of Christ,” Pope Francis said.
According to Zenit.org, when the 29th WYD is celebrated in Krakow in 2016, the Church will also be celebrating the 1050th anniversary of the Baptism of Poland, commemorating the beginning of Christianity in that nation.
Upon hearing the news that Krakow would host the next WYD, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, Archbishop of Krakow, released the following statement:
Together with the whole Church in Poland, I rejoice that the Holy Father has accepted the invitation addressed to him by the highest authorities of the Republic of Poland and by the Polish Episcopate.
In this, he has responded to the desires of so many young people who have long wished to celebrate their faith in the country and the city of Karol Wojtyla, who set off for the Eternal City from Kraków in October 1978, and who, as John Paul II, Bishop of Rome, instituted World Youth Days.
We express our gratitude to the Holy Father for his decisionto visit the country of the Blessed (soon to be Saint) John Paul II,and look forward to keeping vigil with the “morning watchmen” at thefestivities in Kraków.
Prior to the final Mass of WYD on Copacabana Beach, millions of pilgrims participated in the world’s largest flash mob by performing a dance for the pope to a song entitled, “Francis.”
During the closing Mass, Pope Francis, addressing a crowd of over 3 million people, said that it was now time to go and to pass on the experience they had at WYD to others. Focusing his message on the theme of WYD 2013, “Go and make disciples of all nations,” the pope said, simply, “Go, do not be afraid, and serve.”
The pontiff urged those present not to keep their wonderful experience together locked up in their lives or communities. He encouraged all to share and pass on their experiences, to bring Christ into every area of life, even to the fringes of society or to those who may seem indifferent:
Sharing the experience of faith, bearing witness to the faith, proclaiming the Gospel: this is a command that the Lord entrusts to the whole Church, and that includes you; but it is a command that is born not from a desire for domination or power but from the force of love, from the fact that Jesus first came into our midst and gave us, not a part of himself, but the whole of himself, he gave his life in order to save us and to show us the love and mercy of God. Jesus does not treat us as slaves, but as free men, as friends, as brothers and sisters; and he not only sends us, he accompanies us, he is always beside us in our mission of love.
Pope Francis told the young people that Christ was entrusting his message to them, so that it may resound with fresh power.
Do not be afraid. Some people might think: “I have no particular preparation, how can I go and proclaim the Gospel?” My dear friend, your fear is not so very different from that of Jeremiah, a young man like you, when he was called by God to be a prophet. We have just heard his words: “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth”. God says the same thing to you as he said to Jeremiah: “Be not afraid … for I am with you to deliver you” (Jer 1:7,8). He is with us!
“Do not be afraid!” When we go to proclaim Christ, it is he himself who goes before us and guides us. When he sent his disciples on mission, he promised: “I am with you always” (Mt 28:20). And this is also true for us! Jesus does not leave us alone, he never leaves you alone! He always accompanies you.
The pope explained to the youth present, “Evangelizing means bearing personal witness to the love of God, it is overcoming our selfishness, it is serving by bending down to wash the feet of our brethren as Jesus did.”
The final word: serve. The opening words of the psalm that we proclaimed are: “Sing to the Lord a new song” (Psalm 95:1). What is this new song? It does not consist of words, it is not a melody, it is the song of your life, it is allowing our life to be identified with that of Jesus, it is sharing his sentiments, his thoughts, his actions. And the life of Jesus is a life for others. It is a life of service.
Francis concluded, “If you follow these three ideas, you will experience the joy of faith. Go home, and do not be afraid to be generous with Christ. He is counting on you! The Church is counting on you! The Pope is counting on you!”
Reactions to the experience of WYD 2013 suggest that Pope Francis’ journey with the pilgrims has energized the faith of many throughout the world.
Alejandro Bermudez, Executive Director of the Catholic News Agency, told Breitbart News, “The closing Mass of this World Youth Day consolidated Pope Francis as one of the most important moral players in the world’s scene. His rare combination of simplicity, approachability, courage and strength has re-energized a large number of young Catholics, while endearing himself -and the Catholic Church, with a larger, universal audience.”
Dennica Fernando, 22, a senior at San Jose State University, told Chris Kudialis at National Catholic Register, that she had been planning to attend WYD since 2008.
“I’m incredibly blessed this time around to have the sponsorship of my family and friends,” Fernando said. “And I want this to be a transforming experience.”