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5 years after WYD in Poland, Pope's message to “leave a mark” still resonates

"Dear friends, welcome to Krakow."

Five years ago, World Youth Day opened in Krakow. More than 1.5 million young people traveled to Poland in the summer of 2016 to see Pope Francis and reflect on how to live out their faith.

In his first speech to the crowd he invited young people to have big dreams and seek Jesus as the answer to their problems.

"There is an answer that cannot be sold, an answer that cannot be bought. It is not a thing, it is not an object. It's a person and it's alive, it's called Jesus Christ. A round of applause for the Lord."

One of the most memorable moments of the Pope's trip was his visit to the death camp at Auschwitz. There, he prayed in silence for all the victims of hate in the cell where St. Maximilian Kolbe was tortured.

St. Pope John Paul II's presence could be felt throughout his native Krakow. Pope Francis celebrated Mass with priests and religious at the church built in his memory. 

The Pope also visited the shrine of St. Faustina Kowalska, where he explained the depths of God's mercy and said that Jesus' love is unconditional.

"Let's never turn away from Jesus, even if we think that our sins and our faults are the worst. He prefers us as we are, as such His mercy pours out on us."

One of the most significant events was this sunset gathering on the outskirts of the city, where the Pope delivered one of the most powerful speeches of his trip. 

“We didn´t come into this world to "vegetate," to take it easy, to make our lives a comfortable sofa to fall asleep on. No, we came for another reason: to leave a mark. It is very sad to pass through life without leaving a mark.”

Hundreds of thousands of young people camped out to prepare for Sunday's concluding Mass, in which Pope Francis urged them to dream big. 

"Don't let your soul grow numb, but aim for the goal of a beautiful love which also demands sacrifice. Say a firm “no” to the narcotic of success at any cost and the sedative of worrying only about yourself and your own comfort.”

The World Youth Day in Krakow was the last one held in Europe. The following one took place in Panama in 2019. The next World Youth Day is scheduled to be held in Lisbon, Portugal, in the summer of 2023—pandemic permitting.