Spokesman: WYD One of the 'Most Important' Events in Polish History

Father Paweł Rytel-Andrianik, spokesman for the Polish bishops' conference.
Father Paweł Rytel-Andrianik, spokesman for the Polish bishops' conference. (photo: Edward Pentin/NCRegister.com)

The 31st World Youth Day in Krakow has been one of the “most important” events in Poland’s history, and for its future, the spokesman for the Polish bishops’ conference has said.

In an interview with Register shortly before yesterday evening’s Prayer Vigil, Father Paweł Rytel-Andrianik said the fact that it coincided with the 1050th of Poland’s baptism and the Jubilee of Mercy made it a very special occasion.

He also spoke about how the bishops have viewed the event, and responded to some criticisms that World Youth Days can lack sufficient reverence.

The Pope will close World Youth Day later today at the end of his five day visit to Poland. The event has attracted hundreds of thousands of young pilgrims from 187 countries.  

As World Youth Day draws to a close, are you very happy with the way things have gone?

Absolutely. What Holy Father said about Auschwitz, for instance, and in other places — he said he was pleased to be there in silence and also to be close to the people, prisoners from Auschwitz and also he Righteous Among the Nations [people who heroically helped hide and rescue Jews during World War Two]. He was moved by the story of St. Maxmilian [Kolbe] and also moved by the history of the Jewish people and what they suffered, such cruelty. He referred also to this at the end of the day from the window [of the archbishop's residence].

What for you have been the highlights of the event?

Everyday and every meeting has something special. For instance, from the very beginning it’s been like a grandfather giving a speech to grandchildren, [especially] in the evening [when the Pope addressed young people from the archbishop’s residence]. Then the meeting with the Polish nation in Czestochowa when we celebrated 1050 years of our baptism. Half a million people came and this was very important, it was highlighted. Then in the evening, there was the meeting with the young people, again it was like grandfather with his grandchildren. Then yesterday, he visited Auschwitz. There was suffering there and then the suffering of children at the hospital [he visited later], and then the suffering of Jesus at the Stations of the Cross.

Then Divine Mercy on Friday.

Yes, he prayed in front of one of the most important pictures of Jesus, in front of this picture John Paul II also prayed. He met with priests, bishops and religious at the shrine of John Paul II and prayed in front of the John Paul II’s relics.

Are the Polish bishops happy with the visit?

They are very happy. They say that where Peter is, there the Church is. They’re very happy that the Pope came to Poland. The Pope is our father, our teacher. So the Polish bishops are very happy with the Pope’s visit and very grateful. The president of the Polish bishops conference underlined how very grateful we are because he is the Holy Father, and what he says about mercy. This is his main message, this is also the main message of Krakow and Poland, and of St Faustina Kowalska.

For those outside looking on at this World Youth Day, what is it about the event you would tell them about? What would you tell them about the meaning of it and what should they expect from it if they were to come to the next one?

Cardinal [Stanislaw] Dziwisz [of Krakow] said that that World Youth Day is a life-changing experience. The Pope’s visit to Poland is primarily to meet the young people and in the history of our country, never in its 1050 years, has there been one single meeting in which people came from more than 180 countries. Never, ever. There are also 5,700 journalists. So it shows it’s not only a European event but an international one. We call it “World” Youth Day and I think that it shows the dream of John Paul II has come true. It’s great of the Holy Father that, on the 1050 anniversary since the baptism of the country, he said he would like to have this jubilee of young people during the Year of Mercy in Poland. In the history of Poland, this is one of its most important events that we will remember in the future, because you have the Jubilee of our Baptism, 1050 years, you have the Jubilee of Mercy, this Jubilee of Young People — all these remind us that we are witnessing something very important. 

It’s very Providential.

Yes and notice it’s not a usual papal visit because the Holy Father, when he comes to a country, doesn’t always stay so long. In Europe, it is the first visit outside Italy in which he stays more than one day. So in Europe it’s the first time the Holy Father is out of Italy more than one day, and during the preparation for this visit, he decided to add one more day, to arrive on Wednesday instead of Thursday. So that shows his esteem for Poland and also for its young people.

Some in the Church get concerned about the spectacles of World Youth Day, they say they’re not reverent enough, or they don’t encourage a more reverent devotion to God. During the Via Crucis for example, some said certain acts were distasteful . What is your response to this?

When Jesus sent his apostles he sent them two by two and he sent them to the world. He sent them into the streets, he sent them to where people are. So it was not a matter so much of externalities but internalities. If the heart is reverent, for such a person everything is reverent. If the heart is not reverent, you can put him in the holiest place in the world, and it will not be reverent enough.