RIO DE JANEIRO — Young pilgrims at Rio de Janeiro’s World Youth Day said that traveling to Krakow, Poland, in 2016 for the next event “will be a great challenge,” but they insist that “we’ll be there.”
Arturo Fernandez, who is from the Diocese of Morón in Argentina, told Catholic News Agency that young people “will do as much as possible to attend the next World Youth Day. We get together and pray hard to be able to go.”
Fernandez said that being part of World Youth Day in Rio “has been an experience that money cannot buy.”
“There are many people who want to be near the Pope, and that has touched us greatly,” he said. “We’ve been able to hear it, see it, and we have been around him — he always has something to say.”
Approximately 3.2 million people attended the closing World Youth Day Mass with Pope Francis July 28 at Copacabana beach, and 3 million people joined the prayer vigil with the Pope on July 27, according to the Rio de Janeiro mayor’s office.
The crowds for the final WYD Mass in Rio were the largest since the 1995 WYD Mass with Pope John Paul II, when an estimated 4 million to 5 million people attended that event in Manila, Philippines.
Pope Francis announced the Polish city would be the site of the next World Youth Day at the closing Mass in Rio.
Blessed Pope John Paul II was archbishop of Krakow before his election to the papacy in 1978. The archdiocese has close to 1.5 million Catholics and more than 1,100 diocesan priests across 439 parishes, according to the website Catholic-Hierarchy.org.
For Brazilian Manuela Freire, 24, the announcement that the next World Youth Day would take place in Krakow “was something Providential.”
“It is the land of John Paul II,” he said. “I think all Brazilians who are here will go to Poland to join in that World Youth Day, too.”
Despite financial and transportation difficulties for some young people seeking to travel to Krakow, last week’s World Youth Day in Rio has sparked deep enthusiasm among many for the next event in 2016.
“When we heard that the next venue will be Poland, we began to make our calculations [about] what we need to be able to go, and I think we are going to be in Krakow in 2016,” said Eduardo Fernandez, a 29-year-old from Caaguazú, Paraguay.
Matias Gonzalez, a 30-year-old Argentinian, said that Rio’s World Youth Day “has been really impressive. [It’s] been incredible to feel like brothers with people who you have seen for the first time,” he said. “All this has been a Godsend.”
Ana Orleits from Uruguay said, “Rio de Janeiro has been very good and very interesting. We have been able to see the Pope, and now we will go to Poland, where we have new experiences and meet more people.”
Diego Guzman, from Arizona, said that “everything has been good, and I’ve enjoyed everything.”
“This is my first World Youth Day,” he said, “and I will not forget being here.”