In August, two of our young people, Carina and Polly, joined other young people from the Diocese at the World Youth Day event in Krakow in Poland. There, they were part of a crowd of over two million other young people from every nation of the world, all sharing and celebrating their faith with Pope Francis.
Gathered together for a candle-lit vigil in a field outside Krakow, the Pope exhorted young people not to go into 'early retirement', not to 'throw in the towel even before the game has begun'. 'It saddens me to see young people who walk around glumly as if life had no meaning', young people who are bored with life and who have confused happiness with a sofa, retreating to the comfort of a sofa, hiding behind a computer screen and holding the world at bay. This 'sofa happiness' is 'the most harmful and insidious form of paralysis which can cause the greatest harm to young people'. Pleading with the young people, Pope Francis said that 'we didn't come into the world to vegetate, to take it easy, to make our lives a comfortable sofa to fall asleep on!' He added that it also saddens him to see young people who have gone after 'peddlars of false illusions... who rob you of what is best in life' and who end up in 'nothingness'.
The fulfilment that we all yearn for, Pope Francis said, cannot be bought, and is not a thing or an object, but a person. His name, he declared, is Jesus. He is the only one who 'can give you true passion for life' and inspire us 'not to settle for less, but to give of the very best of ourselves'. And then the Pope exhorted young people to leave a mark, to have the courage to 'trade in the sofa for a pair of hiking boots' and to get out and to 'set out on new and unchartered paths, to blaze trails that open up new horizons', and to follow the 'Lord of Risk' in encountering him 'in the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the sick, the friend in trouble, the prisoner, the refugee and the migrant, and our neighbours who feel abandoned', 'to build bridges rather than walls'. Using a football analogy, he declared, that the 'times we live in require only active players on the field, and there is no room for those who sit on the bench'.
Asked to share their favourite memories of the whole experience, Polly said she enjoyed 'meeting people from around the world and just talking to them as friends' because we 'knew that we had at least one thing in common, our faith!' She said she enjoyed the mixture of fun too, 'singing Mamma Mia on the coach, praying a few cheeky decades of the rosary, and becoming really close friends with the other pilgrims from the Diocese, and laughing in the rain when we were soaked to the skin'.
Carina added that she had enjoyed being part of the crowd and 'just being able to see millions of people who were around my age, all gathered for the same thing was extremely touching. The people were so friendly and each individual added to the atmosphere. I am glad to say that I have made so many new friends, not only from England but also from around the world. I met people from countries such as Brazil, America, South Korea and Indonesia. Over 100 countries came together in Blonia Park to welcome the Pope and it was amazing to see so many different flags, many of which I didn’t recognise at first like that of Kazakhstan!'
The next WYD will take place in Panama in 2019.