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Not only numbers. At the WYD in Krakow “young people are the news!” said Fr Falabretti

Countdown for the World Youth Day scheduled to take place in Krakow July 16-31, to the presence of Pope Francis. The official website of the WYD,, displays the time that left to go before the event that youths have been preparing for - not only in technical and organizational terms - for over two years. A long, spiritual journey, with catechesis, meetings and workshops conducted in dioceses, is now coming to its full realization. 90thousand young Italians registered for the event, accompanied by as many as 130 bishops, the highest number ever recorded for a WYD, excluding the one in Rome in the year 2000. The role of “Casa Italia” and an appeal to journalists: “In your reports, be near the young boys and girls. They are the news!”

Krakow: it’s time to go! The world capital of Divine Mercy, the city of the founder of the WYD, Saint John Paul II, is looking forward to the arrival of some two million youths, according to estimates released by the local Organizing Committee, which made known that next largest group after the Poles are young Italians. Thus it can be easily expected that blue will be the dominating colour, as in the best traditions of the WYD. As often happens young Italians are among the most well-organized group, thanks to the efforts of the Italian Bishops’ Conference. “It will be the same also in Poland, confirmed Fr Michele Falabretti, director of the National Service for Youth Pastoral Ministry (SNPG), that will welcome some 90 thousand Italian youths – approximately the same numbers of the WYD in Madrid 2011. A staggering increase in participants was registered in this last month. The first ones will depart on 20 July. Young people will be accompanied by their educators and above all by their bishops.

There will be as many as 130 Italian bishops in Krakow, the highest number ever registered for a WYD, apart from the one held in Rome in the year 2000”

The Italian presence is likely to increase further, for on July 1st the Polish Organizing Committee launched a “last minute” opportunity for those who should decide to register only now (but not later than July 22nd). “It’s a new system –the priest pointed out – in the light of young people’s difficulties to decide on time. This aspect deserves to be acknowledged also in terms of our pastoral ministry for the young generations.”

The efforts of the Bishops’ Conference. CEI’s organizational efforts focus on “Casa Italia”, located in the centre of Krakow (Bernardynska St. 3), which, Fr Falabretti explained, “will be a familiar place to meet, a point of reference for those who should get lost, for the circulation of information, where participants will find materials as well as the possibility to refresh and for recreation, for the young and for the bishops. In the large courtyard a WI-FI network will allow young people to communicate more easily with their family and friends back home.” Catechesis and group meetings will take place Inside Casa Italia, while the chapel will be always open for prayer. There will also be a desk for the Italian Consulate in case the pilgrims should lose documents and for other needs. “Casa Italia will be set up on July 11 –said Fr Falabretti. We expected it to be operational on the 18th to receive the staff from the central offices. On the morning of Sunday 24th, Monsignor Nunzio Galantino, CEI Secretary General, will celebrate an opening Mass in the Bernandini church,.” Another initiative promoted by CEI, through the pastoral care of the young, is the prepaid card “Enjoy WYD 2016” to be used in Poland, enabling pilgrims to convert currency Eur/Złoty at a subsided rate and without further charges ( Almost all Italian youths will also take part in the “Days inside the dioceses” (July 20-25): diocesan town-twinning characterising the WYD. Most pilgrims will be visiting Auschwitz- Birkenau concentration camps, to be visited by Pope Francis on July 29. Another highlight involving young Italians in Krakow is the Jubilee pilgrimage to the Shrine of the Divine Mercy – the site that saw the presence of Saint John Paul II on numerous occasions – scheduled for July 27, with the crossing of the Holy Door. Mass celebration will be held at 4:30 pm at the Esplanade of the shrine, followed by the feast of Italian participants, envisaging great musical surprises. At the end of the celebrations young people will donate the symbols of the WYD – the Cross, and the Icon of the Holy Virgin – to the Polish Church. “Speak about young people! “Everything is ready. The backpacks are almost full. But in the backpack of Fr Falabretti there is still room for hope, with an appeal to the media, Catholic and secular alike: “It’s not a question of numbers.

I would like the WYD to be described amidst the young people. They are the news.

We know the papal program and we can also follow it from home. However, who describes the experience of these youths? The most suggestive image of the WYD was taken from a helicopter. It shows millions of youths participating in the closing celebrations.

Thus we descend from the helicopter and see the youths at close range, showing their faces and personal stories that encompass a larger realm that the esplanade. We should try to understand these youths and see what they carry inside them. Otherwise the risk is to depict the WYD as a repeatedly similar rite.

A changing Europe is also at stake. Twenty-five years ago we were in Czestochowa, the wall had just fallen and the world was changing. There were widespread feelings of hope. Twenty-five years later, Great Britain is leaving and we are facing a world of uncertainties that pervades our youths. Narrating the WYD means narrating the youths.”

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