The 22nd Lednica Youth Meeting in the west of the country ended with a walk at midnight under a massive structure known as the "Fish Gate" and symbolising Christianity, public broadcaster Polish Radio's IAR news agency reported.
Photo: PAP/Jakub Kaczmarczyk
The motto of this year’s gathering was “I am,” in reference to Jesus Christ’s message to people: "I am for you, I am with you, I am focused on you," Archbishop Grzegorz Ryś told those gathered in a homily.
Papal tribute to Polish independence
The prayer vigil in the Lednica Fields, near where Poland's first ruler Mieszko I is thought to have been baptised in 966 AD, was combined with a celebration of the 100th anniversary of Poland regaining independence.
Pope Francis sent greetings to those gathered, who included delegations of pilgrims from countries such as Germany, Belarus, Brazil, Croatia, Kenya, Italy, Lebanon and Canada, according to Poland's PAP news agency.
While addressing Polish-speaking pilgrims at a general audience in St. Peter's Square on Wednesday, the pope said: “I address a special greeting to all those of you who on Saturday will participate in the Youth Meeting in Lednica, to reflect on the Lord Jesus’ words: ‘I am with you every day.’ I am delighted with the initiative. Dear young people, rest assured that He sees you as a precious treasure for the world.”
The pope added: “As you celebrate in Lednica the centenary of the recovery of the independence of your country ... also kiss Polish soil on my behalf.”
Polish statehood based on Christian faith: president
Poland’s President Andrzej Duda visited those praying at the Lednica Fields on Saturday. He told them that Christian faith was a defining element of Polish statehood, the PAP news agency reported.
Duda thanked the young Catholics for “keeping the Christian faith” chosen for Poland by its first ruler, a faith that he said over the centuries “built the great and wonderful tradition thanks to which we exist as a state.”
The president handed out national flags to those gathered, asking them to take the red-and-white flags with them, to respect them and display them at important moments for the nation.
Lights flashed and cameras rolled as Duda joined the young Catholics in a ceremonial dance and singing.
About 93 percent of Poles declare themselves to be Catholics, according to a statistics institute.
Poland recovered independence on November 11, 1918, the day World War I ended, after 123 years of foreign rule.
Source: TVP Info, IAR, PAP