Pope Francis will visit the Nazi death camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau during his visit to Poland for World Youth Day in Krakow.
He will also commemorate the 1,050th anniversary of Christianity in Poland, pray at the icon of the “Black Madonna” of Czestochowa, and hear confessions and have lunch with some of the young people attending the youth day gathering.
The pope’s visit July 27th-31st will be his 15th trip outside of Italy. He will visit three cities, give eight speeches and celebrate three Masses.
Pope Francis will be visiting Auschwitz the year that marks the 75th anniversary of the death of St Maximilian Kolbe, who offered his life for another prisoner at the camp during World War II. The official WYD website, krakow2016.com, said the pope is expected to meet with camp survivors and pray alone in the bunker where Fr Kolbe had been locked up.
While the pope will be meeting with Polish government authorities as well as bishops and religious from Poland, the focus of his visit will be the closing events of World Youth Day, which has the theme: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy.”
Pope Francis will visit the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Krakow and walk through its Holy Door of Mercy. Local organisers said he may pray before the tomb of St Faustina Kowalska, who is buried there.
The 2016 WYD celebration will mark the 30th anniversary of when St John Paul II, the former archbishop of Krakow, invited bishops all over the world to hold an annual event for youth in their dioceses. The first international gathering, now held every two or three years, was in 1987 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where Pope Francis was born and ministered before becoming pope.
In Krakow, the pope will visit a pediatric hospital, lead a Way of the Cross with young people and hold a prayer vigil the evening before the closing Mass of World Youth Day, which is expected to draw more than one million people, according to some government officials.
Here is the detailed schedule released by the Vatican. All times are local:
Wednesday, 27th July
2pm. Departure from Rome’s Fiumicino Airport.
4pm. Arrival at John Paul II International Airport in Krakow-Balice. Welcoming ceremony.
5pm. Meeting with government authorities and the diplomatic corps in the courtyard of Wawel Royal Castle in Krakow. Speech by pope.
5:40pm. Courtesy visit with President Andrzej Duda of Poland at Wawel Castle.
6:30pm. Meeting with Polish bishops in Krakow’s cathedral. Speech by pope.
Thursday, 28th July
7:40am. Transfer by car to airport with a stop at the Convent of the Sisters of the Presentation.
8:30am. Transfer by helicopter to Czestochowa.
9:45am. Arrival at the Jasna Gora Monastery in Czestochowa and prayer in the chapel of the “Black Madonna.”
10:30am. Mass near the shrine to mark the 1,050th anniversary of the baptism of Poland. Homily by pope.
12:45pm. Transfer by helicopter to Krakow.
5:30pm. Welcoming ceremony at gathering with young people in Blonia Park. Speech by pope.
Friday, 29th July
8:45am. Transfer by helicopter to Oswiecim.
9:30am. Visit to Auschwitz.
10:30am. Visit to Birkenau extermination camp. Speech by pope.
11:30am. Transfer by helicopter to Krakow.
4:30pm. Visit to University Children’s Hospital. Speech by pope.
6pm. Way of the Cross with youth in Blonia Park. Speech by pope.
Saturday, 30th July
8:30am. Visit to the Divine Mercy Shrine.
9am. Walk through the Holy Door of Mercy.
9:15am.Hearing confessions of young people in the shrine.
10:30am. Mass with priests, men and women religious, consecrated persons and seminarians from Poland in the St John Paul II Shrine. Homily by pope.
12:45pm. Lunch with young people in the archbishop’s residence.
7pm. Arrival at “Campus Misericordiae” (“Field of Mercy”) and walk through the Holy Door with a small group of young people.
7:30pm. Prayer vigil with youth at the “Field of Mercy.” Speech by pope.
Sunday, 31st July
10am. Mass at the “Field of Mercy” to mark World Youth Day. Homily and Angelus by pope.
5pm. Meeting with WYD volunteers, the local organising committee and benefactors at the Tauron Arena. Speech by pope.
6:15pm. Farewell ceremony at the Krakow-Balice airport.
6:30pm. Departure from the Krakow-Balice airport.
8:25pm. Arrival at Rome’s Ciampino Airport.
Photo: Bunk beds are seen at the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and State Museum in Oswiecim, Poland. Pope Francis will visit the Nazi-era concentration camp when he participates in World Youth Day in nearby, Krakow in July.