KRAKOW, Poland — Krakow’s role in the Divine Mercy devotion could mean great things for World Youth Day this year, said the city’s archbishop, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz.
“Krakow is the center of the devotion to the Merciful Jesus, and the same Jesus said that from here a fire will go out to prepare the whole world for the meeting with Jesus,” the cardinal told CNA.
“I think it important to take up this fire and give it to the whole world,” said the cardinal, who served as St. John Paul II’s personal secretary for decades.
World Youth Day will take place in Krakow July 26—31. The event draws hundreds of thousands of young people from around the world.
Cardinal Dziwisz spoke with CNA about his hopes for the event.
He reflected on the devotion to the Divine Mercy that blossomed in Krakow. The devotion followed St. Faustina Kowalska’s private revelation of Jesus Christ, who asked the Polish nun to deliver to the world the teaching of his Divine Mercy.
St. Faustina died in Krakow in 1938 at the age of 33. She was canonized in the year 2000, and is venerated as the “Secretary of Divine Mercy.”
The Divine Mercy devotion spread far and wide thanks to St. John Paul II. During the Second World War, he used to pray in the convent of Sister Faustina before going to work in the Solvay chemical factory. As pope, John Paul II declared the first Sunday after Easter to be Divine Mercy Sunday.
Cardinal Dziwisz suggested that this awareness of the Divine Mercy revelation continues under Pope Francis. The upcoming World Youth Day takes place in the Year of Mercy proclaimed by the Pope.
The focus of the Year of Mercy combines “very well” with the World Youth Day theme, “Blessed are the merciful,” he said.
The cardinal stressed the particular importance of World Youth Day’s Krakow venue.
“St. Faustina wrote that the world will not achieve peace if people will not rely on the Merciful Jesus,” he said.
“The fact that the whole world is in Krakow, during the Year of Mercy, is very important. Especially nowadays, when peace is in danger. We must fight for peace, and so this meeting will have this aim: to live peace here, and to bear peace to the world.”
At the moment, 586,000 young people have registered for the World Youth Day, organizers report. People are coming from 177 countries. This includes the Vatican City State, which has submitted only one application: that of Pope Francis, the first registered pilgrim for World Youth Day.
Cardinal Dziwisz remarked that Krakow is a bridge between Eastern and Western Europe.
“We are open to welcome also young people coming from the Orthodox Churches,” he said.
He remarked that this World Youth Day falls on the 25th anniversary of the 1991 World Youth Day at the Our Lady of Czestochowa shrine in Poland. That was a key year for the end of Cold War tensions.
“For the first time in history, young people coming from the Eastern countries, from beyond the Iron Curtain, took part in World Youth Day. It was the first time World Youth Day was a really a worldwide event,” Cardinal Dziwisz said.
The cardinal said that the Church must harvest the fruits of World Youth Day.
“After these gatherings, the youth are more committed to the life of the Church, even more joyful, with more hope for the future. World Youth Day made blossom vocations to the priesthood, to the consecrated life, as well as so many friendships that sometimes turn into marriages,” he said.
Cardinal Dziwisz added that he expects the World Youth Day “will be lived in an atmosphere of friendship. In Europe there are still many curtains, many barriers…but always, young people change when they meet the Pope.”