Jul 25, 2016

All aboard as 100 Limerick pilgrims join an expected 1m plus attendance at World Youth Day this week

Limerick has this week sent its own, 100-strong legion to one of the biggest gatherings of the year on the planet, World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland.


Some 50 pilgrims, led by Bishop Brendan Leahy, as part of a Limerick Diocesan group departed Shannon Airport this morning for the week long celebrations and will be joined in Krakow by 35 members of the Polish community in Limerick and by a group of young people who are travelling to Krakow with the Franciscan Friars of Renewal based in Moyross.


Well over one million youth pilgrims will travel to Poland for World Youth Day, which is effectively a seven day celebration, attended by Pope Francis, that commenced yesterday, Sunday July 25th, and will run until this coming Sunday, July 31st.


World Youth Day was initiated by Pope John Paul II in 1984 and started out with a celebration of 30,000 people but by the time it reached the Philippines ten years later it would set a world record for attendance at a single religious event, with five million present for that epic gathering.


Delegates from over 187 different countries are attending this week’s event, which returns to Saint John Paul II’s homeland for the second time.


This week’s festivities reach a climax on Thursday with the arrival of Pope Francis, who will remain at the event until it concludes on Sunday, but the 100 strong Limerick group will, from the moment they land, be fully engaged in what Bishop Leahy said would be a deeply joyous celebration of faith.

Bishop Leahy is one of 250 bishops across the world and three Irish bishops/archbishops selected to address the celebrations, with three talks on themes of mercy to be given on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of this week.


Speaking at Shannon Airport ahead of departure this morning, he said:  “I am delighted and honoured to have been asked to give these talks. It is a chance to have a conversation with young people about this theme – what it means for our world today with so much terrorism and fear, for our own relationships with others, for the life of the Church, for spirituality, for the living out of Christianity in our everyday lives.


“World Youth Day is an amazing experience and really has to be seen to be believed. I myself was at the very first World Youth Day in 1984 with John Paul and it was a really memorable event. I can remember the sea of white hats that everyone wore. World Youth Day is the best of celebrations and such a reinvigorating experience as you get to witness young from across the world joining in absolute harmony.  In the troubled world we live in today, this is a very reassuring experience and strong message,” he said.


The Limerick pilgrims will attend various ceremonies, concerts, exhibitions and workshops. The week concludes with a long pilgrimage walk on Saturday to a designated site where all the pilgrims spend the night sleeping out under the stars and ahead of the Pope celebrating the closing Mass on Sunday.


Bishop Leahy said that this year’s gathering will be particularly special given it returns to the homeland of Pope John Paul II, who initiated World Youth Day.  “We are really excited about what’s ahead.  It is a massive outpouring of faith and love and this year will be very much inspired by Pope Francis’ dedication to Mercy in this Jubilee Year.”


Also leading the pilgrimage is Fr. Chris O’Donnell, Diocesan Youth Director and he spoke of the great sense of hope and excitement ahead of the departure.


“Attending the World Youth Day celebrations is one of the most exciting things any of us will ever do. It’s an amazing event, with such an incredible sense of celebration of faith and mercy.  There is also a huge sense of camaraderie and fun and we are all looking forward to this pilgrimage immensely.


“The highpoint of the festival is the presence of the Pope and Pope Francis has engaged so many people that the young pilgrims who are traveling from Limerick this morning are really looking forward to seeing him, albeit amongst a crowd of a million and a half young people.


“The 50 Limerick Diocesan delegates come from all over the diocese and have been busy preparing for the event over recent months and I want to thank them for their commitment and, indeed, the many, many others who have worked so hard in helping us arrange all of this. The limerick flag will be flying high and here's hoping that it will be an experience we will never forget.”