CS PHOTO BY JACLYN LIPPELMANN The interior of the Basilica of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Wadowice is seen during a Mass July 25.
On July 25, the World Youth Day pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Washington began their day by visiting Wadowice, the birthplace of St. John Paul II. The pilgrims visited the Basilica of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is the church that St. John Paul II’s family attended. It is just steps from his childhood home.
The pilgrims continued their day with a solemn visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Nazi concentration camp where over a million people were killed during the Holocaust. In the spirit of Pope Francis, who said he wanted “to go to that place of horror without speeches, without crowds,” when the pilgrims arrived at Auschwitz, Archdiocese of Washington Auxiliary Bishop Martin Holley invited them to enter in silence.
While they were there, they saw cell block 11, which is the place where the Polish saint Maximillian Kolbe was sent to starve to death, after sacrificing himself to take the place of another prisoner who had cried out about his wife and children.
Moved by what they saw at Auschwitz, pilgrims offered a word of thanks to Iraqi Christians who traveled to World Youth Day even in the midst of persecution. They began a campaign to pray for peace, using #WYDvoices4peace.
The seminarians from the archdiocese, who began their day by visiting Auschwitz, were touched by the hope that came from visiting the home of St. John Paul II afterwards.
“We saw the terrible atrocities that happened to humanity at this place, but then we get to kind of rise from the ashes of Auschwitz and come here to the home parish of John Paul II,” said Nicholas Morrison, who is studying at at Saint John Paul II Seminary.
While in Wadowice, the seminarians tried “Pope cake.” The cake was originally called “kremówka,” but its name was changed to reflect the fact that it was a favorite of St. John Paul II.
The seminarians then visited the Shrine of Divine Mercy, which is the location where St. Faustina had her revelations of mercy.
Today the pilgrims will be traveling to Czestochowa and then returning to Kraków for the official opening Mass of World Youth Day in Blonia Park.