World Youth Day 2016

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Millions of young pilgrims will converge on Krakow, Poland, July 24 through Aug. 1, 2016 to take part in the 15th International World Youth Day. More than 150 of those young people will be from the Arlington Diocese.

World Youth Day was started by St. John Paul II in 1986 in Rome. The last WYD was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2013, and was the first for Pope Francis.

Kevin Bohli, diocesan Youth Ministry Office director, said that planning for the 2016 pilgrimage began last summer. Fund-raising events were held by parishes to help youths cover the $3,500 cost of the trip.

The cost is higher than previous pilgrimages, Bohli said, because of the special circumstances in Krakow. In the past, sleeping was generally done under the stars in sleeping bags in larger open areas. This reduced costs.

There is a lack of this type of venue in Krakow. Bohli said that diocesan pilgrims would have been broken up into smaller units. Instead, the diocese booked an entire hotel to keep the group together. It's not a fancy hotel, said Bohli, but Arlington pilgrims will be together.

There is an "extended pilgrimage" from July 18. The pilgrims will visit Italy, the Vatican, Assisi and Venice. This portion will add an extra $1,000 to the cost.

Bohli's parish, St. Ambrose in Annandale, sold Krispy Kreme donuts to help students raise the thousands of dollars needed to attend.

"That's a lot of donuts," he said.

And the fund-raising will continue until the trip gets closer.

There are 150 pilgrims on the extended pilgrimage, and they will join 50 for the main pilgrimage July 25 in Vienna, Austria. Bohli said that there are a few openings left on the extended pilgrimage.

The itinerary in Poland will include time for prayer and reflection, with talks by cardinals and bishops. There also is opportunity for Mass and confession.

On July 28, the pilgrims will welcome Pope Francis to Krakow. The next day they will join the Holy Father for Stations of the Cross.

Before everyone heads home, there will be a closing Mass July 31 celebrated by the pope.

To prepare the young people for the trip, Bohli said they are having a mini-pilgrimage May 21. All participants will meet in Arlington at St. Ann Church and walk two miles to St. Agnes Church for Mass. Bohli said he wants the pilgrims to be spiritually and physically prepared for Poland, noting that the walk in Krakow could be 10 times as far.

The theme for this World Youth Day is from the Gospel of Matthew, and Jesus' Sermon on the Mount.

"Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy."

In May, Pope Francis declared a Holy Year of Mercy Dec. 8, 2015, through Nov. 20, 2016.

"How appropriate is that theme?" said Bohli.

Borowski can be reached at or on Twitter @DBorowskiACH.

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© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015