31 Jul 2016

WYD blog – Vigil & Final Mass

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WYD Blog July 30 – click here to read Jenny's previous reports

WYD Vigil and Final Mass

As our South Aussie pilgrims gathered at 8am to leave for campus misericordiae (field of mercy) they were relieved to learn that they could take the tram part of the way. Many other pilgrims had the same idea and it was a crowded ride followed by an 8km walk in the hot sun to the massive purpose-built venue for the vigil and final Mass.

I needed to find out if I could get a pool card for the event, to ensure I had a seat on the media bus, but I couldn’t get confirmation from anyone and was told to turn up at 1pm to see if there was room on the bus. In the meantime, I filed a couple of stories and then met Aoife from the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference for coffee at a bakery near the university.

When I returned to the media centre I was told they had put on extra buses for reporters and as luck would have it, I was able to get a pool card from one of my Australian Catholic Press Association buddies (and ex-Adelaidean), Adrian Middeldorp from Parramatta Diocese. He already had a photographer’s pass so didn’t need his press one. This was a big relief because it meant I could get access to media area and close to the stage. During the 40-minute bus trip to the venue we saw the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims making their way along the edge of the main road and I felt very lucky that I was in an air-conditioned coach.

But it wasn’t all easy – we had about a 2km walk over rough terrain (in my sandals mind you) to reach the checkpoint for the VIP and media area, then there was a wide queue to get into the security check area. I finally squeezed through the gate to the army personnel checking documentation, only to have them ask me for ID (my media ID card wasn’t enough, even though it has a photo) such as a passport or driver’s licence, neither of which I had. I was so close but so far…I remembered I had a photo of my passport page on my phone and I showed this to the soldier but he scoffed ‘it’s just a photo’  and told me to go and sit on the grass.

A couple of other reporters had been refused entry because they didn’t have a pool card and I was almost resigned to having to go back and try and find my pilgrims when after about half an hour on the grass I saw one of the young volunteers from the media centre who had helped me get a taxi earlier in the week. As I approached her, the solider who had told me to wait asked me to show him my WYD pilgrim pass hanging around my neck and then said, “okay you can go in”. I’m not sure if it’s because it had ‘Australia’ on it or what, but it worked!

There was a tent for media and a three-storey stand overlooking the stage as well as some seating for non-photographers underneath. I spent some time up the top with Adrian and Emily Ng from The Catholic Leader in Brisbane and then sat in the shade underneath to watch some of the performances and testimonials.

The size of the stage – well it was actually three stages with a huge stairway leading up to the main one – and the vastness of the pilgrim area was a sight to behold. The blue sky and fluffy clouds created a beautiful backdrop to the large screen showing Pope Francis and when the sun set over the pilgrims there was a rush to get that perfect shot. An estimated 1.6 million people were there to see Pope Francis deliver his address to pilgrims, many of whom lit candles at dusk and prayed silently with the Holy Father during Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.

Up on the media stand, it was very moving to see reporters stop their work and kneel down to participate in the Adoration. Earlier, when the Pope asked people to start building bridges by holding hands, some of the reporters did likewise. It’s not something you would ever see with secular media and I felt privileged to be part of this international media group.

Unfortunately, it was too difficult to catch up with our pilgrims because of the difficulty in moving around in such a large crowd and I had to make sure I followed the media contingent back to the bus which departed at 10pm.

There were a number of buses returning to Krakow and they received a police escort to ensure they made it through the streets blocked off due to security for the Pope and to keep clear of the pilgrims who had decided to leave that night.

The logistics of getting to and from the Campus Misericordia were extremely challenging and I didn’t attempt to get to the Final Mass because my flight to Rome was at 1.25pm.

I am sure those who stayed the night and celebrated Mass had an unforgettable experience and I look forward to catching up with our pilgrims back in Australia to find out all about it. They had a celebratory Last Supper in Krakow before heading to Prague for a retreat before returning home while I have two weeks holidaying in Italy before coming back home.

It’s been an amazing two weeks – we seem to have fitted so much in and the time has gone way too fast but at the same time it feels like we have been away a long time! The Polish people have been wonderful hosts; Basia was told that many Krakow residents were wary of WYD and some had decided to leave town for the week but those who stayed had nothing but praise for the pilgrims and said the city was ‘so alive’ while they were there. She also was told that the crime rate was 10 times lower than usual, so well done to the young pilgrims. I’m sure the city streets and squares will seem very quiet now that they are all leaving.

I hope you have enjoyed this small glimpse of our journey to Poland and World Youth – be sure to read some of the articles and see some more photographs in the next edition of The Southern Cross.

Posted by Jenny Brinkworth at 6:37am

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