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Update from Bishop Mark

Saturday, our young pilgrims walked from AGH Uni where we are staying in student accommodation in Krakow to the field 15 kms away where the Pope will celebrate Mass with us on Sunday. This field, called Campus Misericordiae, has been prepared for the occasion. We hiked carrying backpacks and sleeping bags, since we’ll spend the night in the field. Along the way, hundreds of Polish people came out from their homes to give us fresh water and, in some cases, even to hose us down to help us keep cool on this 30 degree day. One of us had mild heat stroke and was revived in a first aid tent.

Walking to Campus Misericordiae on of our groups of pilgrims was stopped by the police and then the Pope went past three metres away. He looked at us and waved. Three young people gave testimonies from their lives of their need for God and then the Pope spoke really powerfully. He called on us not to be couch potatoes but to change the world. Fear and her twin sister paralysis are not for us; we are to be missionaries of hope. 'Fight for your future. Don't let others decide it for you. Be ready to respond to the dreams that God has for you,' he said.
 
We are to build bridges, not walls.  "The first bridge? Reaching out and taking hold of the hand of the person by your side. All of you, join hands & give them a squeeze." And 1.5 million of us were linked - Russian and Ukranian, Middle Easterner and European, American and Mexican, Australians with all the world. The sense of world unity was overwhelming.
 
We then knelt on the ground as the Pope led us in adoration of Jesus in the blessed Sacrament while the Divine Mercy chaplet was sung. During the night, after the pope left the field, chapels for adoration were opened and stayed open all night and priests available for confession in many designated areas. We prayed when we could and slept (or at least lay on the ground) when we couldn't.
 
One of our pilgrims is making his first Reconciliation tonight at the Vigil and first Communion tomorrow at the Pope's Mass. He is a baptised Catholic but had no desire to take that further when he came. Experiences on the trip have lead him to want to put Jesus at the centre of his life or at least to take another step in that direction. He has asked if he can be confirmed on the retreat we are making after WYD before coming home and we are excited as this will be a moment of recommitment for us all.
 
We began our six and a half hour walk with Mass at which Bishop Curtin preached beautifully. In the context of the day's Gospel on the beheading of John the Baptist,  he talked about the senseless death of the priest in France and the holiness found even in the Nazi death camps which are close to Kraków.
 
He went on: 'Etty Hillesum, a Dutch Jew deported from Holland and who died at Auschwitz wrote, "If peace is to come one day, it could only be true if each of us first makes peace in ourselves, removes every feeling of hatred for any race or people, or takes charge of such feelings and changes them into something else, perhaps in time even into love. Is this too much to ask?  Indeed it's the only solution." If we are to walk this path, and our walk today to Campus Misericordiae is its physical, symbolic expression, then there are choices to be made,' and talked about the choice to love rather than hate.  (Full text in previous blog)
 

+ Mark Edwards OMI
Auxiliary Bishop of Melbourne