KRAKOW, POLAND - World Youth Day 2016 officially kicked off Tuesday, July 26, at 6 p.m., with a welcoming Mass by the shepherd of Krakow, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz.
Over 200,000 pilgrims filled 48 hectares of Blonia Park, near the historic center of Krakow, Poland. They watched as the World Youth Day cross, a gift to the young people of the world from St. John Paul II, was handed from the Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro to the Archdiocese of Krakow.
Food tents and concerts gave the opening day a carnival flavor, while those attending the Mass remained reverent outside of the requisite selfie. Pilgrims even kneeled on the ground made muddy that afternoon from some much-needed rain.
The crowds included people from dozens of countries, waving their flags in national pride. Rivers of white - priests in their cassocks - flowed through the colorful crowd.
Mass included a choir and dozens of priests on the altar, which included a large representation of St. Faustina Kowalska's Divine Mercy image. St. Faustina, along with St. John Paul II, the founder of World Youth Day and only Polish pope, serve as patron saints of this year's celebration.
The Mass was in a mix of Polish and Latin. Pilgrims who brought radios could tune in to hear broadcasts of Mass in the many languages of the pilgrims. Three large screens showed videos of the Mass and a half dozen speaker towers allowed most, if not all pilgrims to get a full view of the Mass.
"I want to thank you for the joy that you brought with your presence here in Krakow. You help us to live this joy of belonging to Christ and to the community of Church," Cardinal Dziwisz said in closing.