Apostolic journey

WYD 2016: Pope Francis’ “stages of mercy” with sick children, nuns, students and old people

The busy schedule of Pope Francis’ trip to Poland, from July 27 to 31, envisages, inter alia, visits to the paediatric hospital of Prokocim, to the convent and school of the congregation of the Virgin of the Presentation, to Caritas’ old age home

The meeting with the Pope greeting the faithful from the Papal Window of the Archbishop’s residence in Krakow’s Franciszkanska St. is unquestionably the most anticipated unplanned event of the upcoming visit of Pope Francis to Poland. “The dialogues from the Papal window”, initiated by chance by John Paul II, have been strongly requested also to Benedict XVI during his visit to Poland in 2006. Now it’s the turn of Jorge Mario Bergoglio.
Francis’ greeting to youths from the Papal Window of his Polish residence, in the evening, during WYD 2016, has already been included in the Polish-language programme of the visit, and all the faithful are looking forward to it. The Pope’s five-day visit to Poland, from July 27-31 is marked by a tight-schedule, highlighted by especially intensive moments.

Meeting with young patients. The Pope’s meeting with young patients at the paediatric hospital of Prokocim, a few kilometers from Krakow, is expected to be the most moving moment of the visit. Francis will be arriving there in the afternoon of Friday July 29, after having visited Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps in the morning. Twenty five years later, Pope Bergoglio will be repeating the gesture of John Paul II in 1991, when, during his journey for the WYD in Czestochowa, he stopped to visit the largest paediatric hospital in southern Poland specialized in complex surgery – such as the one on two conjoined twins- open-heart surgery on children, and burns unit.

The Pope will be welcomed by the staff, by the chaplain of the clinic and by the hospitalized young patients and those confined to wheelchairs- for some of the paediatric cancer patients may not be strong enough to stand on their feet.  

Where body and spirit are treated. Over the past fifty years more than 900 thousand patients were treated in the hospital specialized in extremely complex medical cases.

Some 36 thousand children are hospitalized every year

While almost 200 thousand are treated in specialised outpatient centres. The hospital built on an initiative of Polish immigrants in the US, has been completed thanks to the support of the US government. Pastoral care to young patients and their families are guaranteed by the chaplain, a woman religious, and by two catechist nuns who are voluntary workers in the hospital. In addition, the voluntary service of Catholic Action and Rosary Circle provide special support to patients through a dedicated integration program for sick children and those in good health.

Nuns, people with disabilities and students. The Pope will dedicate to youths another unscheduled event. In the morning of Thursday, July 28, Francis will visit the Convent of Sisters of the Presentation of Blessed Virgin Mary. The Convent also runs a boarding school for general education. Since its foundation in the seventeenth century the Congregation has always been devoted to the teaching and upbringing of children and young people. In addition to their educational commitment, the sisters (taking advantage of EU contributions) provide assistance to disabled and dependent persons. The sisters are actively committed also in Ukraine and in Italy, particularly in the Vatican, where they are responsible for some logistic aspects. Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, speaking of the Pope’s visit to the convent of the Sisters of the Presentation underlined:

“Pope Francis expressed his personal wish to visit the Generalate in Krakow to honour the special commitment of the women religious.”

In a statement published on their website, announcing the Pope’s visit, the sisters of the Congregation wrote: “It should be remembered that with this visit Pope Francis wishes to give special recognition to the humble and devout work of the women religious for the Church” at the same time, “he wants to thank all women religious in Poland for their life witness, educational work and dedication to the sick and poor, children and needy persons.” They add that with this visit the Pope “intends to highlight the significance of the Year of Consecrated Life that has just ended.” Following the program, the meeting will conclude with a common prayer with the women religious and students before the sixteenth-century image of the Holy Virgin of freedom wearing a mantel, symbol of mercy.

Old-age home. A concrete token of mercy is embodied by the home housing approximately fifty old and needy people founded by Caritas Krakow near the Campus Misericordiae, the venue of the Pope’s meeting with young people. The Holy Father will impart his official blessing on the morning of Sunday July 31st, but he might also rest there after Mass celebration. In fact, a room has been prepared for the Pope inside the premises with

 “The Book of Mercy”, containing the messages that the faithful dedicated to the Pope.

Caritas Krakow has set up a large logistics centre, “Chleb Milosierdzia” (“Bread of Mercy”) near the home where volunteers will be collecting funds for Middle East populations, and where Pope Francis will find the first mobile clinic for Syrian refugees in Lebanon, whose costs were entirely covered by donations to the “Misericordes” initiative, the virtual Campus Misericordiae, launched by Caritas on the website we4charity.com.