28 Jul 2016
WYD blog – Pope arrives
This morning we began the first full day of World Youth Day with Catechesis for English-speaking pilgrims in a very large circus tent not far from our accommodation. Acclaimed homilist and author Cardinal Timothy Dolan from New York was the presenter and did not disappoint with his message of 'now is the time for mercy' and his stirring account of Pope John Paul II's return visit to Poland in 1979, which he described as 'nine days that changed the world'. After decades of Soviet rule, John Paul encouraged the millions of Poles who came to see him to not give up on God and in doing so was a driving forcebehind the fall of Communism.
I returned to the media centre where there was much anticipation and activity as journalists, photographers and TV crews from around the world prepared for the arrival of Pope Francis that afternoon. After a couple of hours filing stories, Basia and I walked into the old town, stopping on the way for a cool drink in a cafe with a quaint courtyard. The waitress kindly brought us both a piece of complimentary cinnamon cake – most probably because we were wearing our green Aussie t-shirts.
We joined the throngs of noisy pilgrims in the market square – the French had taken over the statue of a famous Polish poet and were singing and waving flags. There were army trucks nearby, a sad sign of the times, but on the up side I couldn't help but be impressed by how well-behaved the young people have been and continue to be – not a drop of alcohol in sight!
We were intent on getting to the Jewish quarter on foot but were delayed by impromptu concerts and a visit to the beautiful Trinity Cathedral. It was further away than we thought and with my laptop in my rucksack, my camera on my shoulder and sandals on my feet, I'd just about given up when a monk who Basia had approached for directions came back with his car and gave us a lift. We couldn't believe our luck – and although the most historic synagogue was closed we managed to see inside a smaller one and wander the cobbled streets for a while before stopping for a much-needed refreshment.
We then caught a taxi to the Novotel for dinner with the Archbishop and a few of the other 'leaders' in the group. The television was showing the Pope's appearance at the window where Pope John Paul II used to address the people and it was strange to think he was just a few blocks away from us.
Posted by Jenny Brinkworth at 4:47am.