Welcome ceremony for Pope Francis (seated, extreme left) at the Wawel Royal Castle in Krakow; at the podium is President Andrzej Duda delivering his welcome remarks


Foreign Minister H.E. Mr. Witold Waszczykowski and Amb. Paez in Czestochowa


In Czestochowa - First row from L to R: Amb. Paez, a Filipino priest, Member of Parliament Honorable Mrs. Elzbieta Stepien and Mrs. Elsa Chua; Second row from L to R: Mr. Gianluigi Scaglia; a Filipina nun; Mrs. Angie Abrahan and Mrs. Lalaine Visalda


Pope Francis celebrating Mass in Czestochowa


Pope Francis In Brzegi


Pope Francis celebrating the mass in Brzegi


L to R: Poland’s Defense Minister Mr. Antoni Macierewicz, Amb. Paez and Argentina’s Ambassador H.E. Mrs. Patricia Beatriz Salas in Brzegi

            “The five-day visit of Pope Francis to Poland for the World Youth Day celebrations underscored the bond of Catholic faith between the Philippines and Poland and it maybe worth recalling that the Philippines hosted the World Youth Day in 1995 which was attended by Poland’s native son, then Pope -- and now Saint John Paul II,” commented Philippine ambassador to Poland Ms. Patricia Ann V. Paez.

            The envoy noted that for centuries, the Philippines was the only Catholic country in Asia while Poland is the “most devout” Catholic country in Europe. Today, about 95% of Filipinos are Catholic while around 93% of Poles profess the same faith. For this year’s World Youth Day, at least 1,000 Filipinos travelled all the way from their country to Poland to participate. The first World Youth Day which happened 30 years ago was initiated by Pope John Paul II.  

            Pope Francis arrived in Krakow on July 27 for his first-ever visit to Poland and to Central Europe. The official welcome ceremony was held in the Wawel Royal Castle in Krakow. Poland’s President H.E. Andrzej Duda led the weicomers composed of top Polish government and church officials as well as members of the diplomatic corps.

            In his welcome remarks, President Duda stressed that "the world needs values, faith, good, or in other words everything that Your Holiness is bringing with you." President Duda recalled that when Pope John Paul II made his first pilgrimage to Poland in 1979, he spoke “famous words” in Warsaw, “which entered the hearts of all Poles”. The president added: “He said ‘may Your Spirit emerge and renew the face of this land’. And this is what happened. In 1989 and later, the face of Poland was renewed through political change, through the departure of a leadership that was hostile to the Catholic Church and faith, which often persecuted people of the faith, persecuted priests and killed them. We managed to overthrow this leadership and Poles regained their freedom.”

            In response, Pope Francis recalled that Pope John Paul liked to speak of a Europe “that breathes with two lungs – an eastern and a western lung.” He emphasized that Europe’s new humanism is a harmony of the West and East. “The ideal of a new European humanism is inspired by the creative and coordinated breathing of these two lungs, together with the shared civilization that has its deepest roots in Christianity.”

            The Pope pointed to the need for “a spirit of readiness to welcome those fleeing from wars and hunger, and solidarity with those deprived of their fundamental rights, including the right to profess one’s faith in freedom and safety.” The Holy Father also mentioned the 1050th anniversary of the Baptism of Poland which was “certainly an important event for national unity. “

            Reviewing Polish history, he observed that the “Poles have been able to let good memory have the upper hand (over “bad memory”), for example, by celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the forgiveness mutually offered and accepted between the Polish and German episcopates, following the Second World War”. He also referred to the Joint Declaration between the Catholic Church in Poland and the Orthodox Church of Moscow which he said “was an act that inaugurated a process of rapprochement and fraternity not only between the two Churches, but also between the two peoples.”

            The following day,Pope Francis visited the Jasna Gora monastery, a shrine cherished by the Poles, and prayed in front of the iconic Black Madonna. In his Homily, Pope Francis spoke about a God who is contented by little things, unlike ourselves who, he said, “always want to possess something greater.” To be attracted by power, by grandeur, by appearances”, he added, “is tragically human”. 

            During a Mass held outside the monastery and before a crowd estimated at around 600,000, Pope Francis praised St. John Paul II and Poland’s native daughter St. Faustina and honored the countless "ordinary yet remarkable people'' in Poland who held firm to their Catholic faith throughout adversity in the former Communist nation. The Mass was held in celebration of this year's 1,050th anniversary of Poland's “baptism” to Roman Catholicism.

            The Campus Misericordiae mass held in Brzegi was the culmination of the fifth and final day of Pope Francis’ visit to Poland. The Mass was attended by high-ranking state officials, including President Andrzej Duda, Prime Minister Beata Szydlo, Deputy Speaker of Parliament Ryszard Terlecki, the Head of the Prime Minister’s Chancellery Beata Kempa as well as Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski, Defence Minister Antoni Macierewicz and the Minister of Interior and Administration Mariusz Blaszczak.

            In front of a giant image of Jesus, the Pope expressed his concern for the millennials who could “pay dearly” for taking “dark paths” and for “wasting their lives “looking for thrills” instead of seeking fulfillment. The 79-year old Pope used social media and technology terms of the millennial generation. He urged the young people to "'download' the best 'link' of all, that of a heart which sees and transmits goodness without growing weary." He said their response to the challenges of life cannot be "texting a few words," that prayer should be given pride of place over their internet "chats", and that God's memory was not a "hard disk" filled with files on everyone, but more of a compassionate heart that wants to help them "erase" evil.”

            Pope Francis encouraged them to continue "to be dreamers (who) believe in a new humanity, one that rejects hatred between peoples, one that refuses to see borders as barriers". He described negativity as a "virus infecting and blocking everything" and said young people must not forget about God in a world of unlimited information. "Trust the memory of God: His memory is not a hard disk that saves and archives all our data, but a heart filled with tender compassion," Pope Francis said.

            After concluding the Angelus prayer, Pope Francis announced that the next World Youth Day would take place in Panama in 2019.

            According to various estimates, between 1.5 million and 2 million people attended the mass in Campus Misericordiae at Brzegi. Young pilgrims from Poland and at least 187 countries attended the event.

            Pope Francis thanked everyone who took part and helped make the World Youth Day in Poland a success. He also thanked the Archbishop of Krakow Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz; the President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity Mr. Stanislaw Rylko, for helping organize the event, and the Minister of Interior and Administration Mr. Mariusz Blaszczak for guaranteeing security during the WYD, After bidding farewell to the staff at the Krakow curia, the Pope met with WYD volunteers, helpers, and the event’s Organizing Committee at Krakow’s Tauron Arena. At 6:00 pm, Pope Francis left the Tauron Arena and made his way to Balice Airport, where he met President Andrzej Duda before his flight to Rome.

The send-off ceremony at the airport was attended by Prime Minister Beata Szydlo, members of her government and Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, aside from the President and the First Lady. Also in attendance was an Honour Guard of the Polish Armed Forces.


A huge crowd lined the streets of Krakow to see Pope Francis


An estimated 600,000 young pilgrims who attended the Holy Father’s outdoor mass in Jasna Gora in Czestochowa


L to R: Senator Marek Pek, Amb. Paez, an Indonesian Embassy officer  and Australia’s Ambassador H.E. Mr. Paul Wojciechowski


Senator Wieslaw Kilian and Amb. Paez


Member of the Polish Parliament and Chairman of the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee Dr. Jaroslaw Sachajko and Amb. Paez


Waiting for the arrival of Pope Francis at the Wawel Royal Castle; L to R: Amb. Paez; Minister Katarina Gradic Rezen of the Embassy of Slovenia; Malta’s Ambassador H.E. Mrs. Natasha Meli Daudey and spouse Mr. Xavier Daudey (3rd and 4th from the right)


A spiritual celebration of dancing and singing in Brzegi


H.E. Prime Minister Beata Sydlo in Brzegi


H.E. President Andrzej Duda in Brzegi


Amb. Paez and Argentina’s Ambassador H.E. Ms. Patricia Beatriz Salas in Brzegi


In Brzegi after The Holy Father’s mass, L to R: Lithuania’s Ambassador H.E. Mr. Sarunas Adomavicius, Amb. Paez and Armenia’s Ambassador H.E. Mr. Edgar Ghazaryan


Members of the Boy’s Choir who sang in Czestochowa


Dancing nuns and bishops in Brzegi


H.E. Mr. Juan Carlos Varela  -  the President of Panama where the next World Youth Day will be held in 2019