Young people from the East during the Sixth World Youth Day
Never before and after the Jasna Gora Shrine was filled with pilgrims as on 14-15 August 1991 on the occasion of the Sixth World Youth Day. All parts of the sanctuary and the square in front of it, the parks, the Most Blessed Virgin Mary Avenues as well as the adjacent streets and corners were filled with young people from all over the world (ca. 1.5 million). Called by John Paul II they came from Poland and many other countries by buses, trains, planes or they hitchhiked to join the Poles’ walking pilgrimages to Jasna Gora. Apart from the Polish youth there were Italians (ca. 50,000) and Spaniards (30,000). There were groups from France (30,000) and Belgium. Young people from the former Soviet Union republics were especially awaited (from Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia, Kazakhstan) as well as from young Eastern European countries: the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania. Since John Paul II wanted a meeting between young people from the East and from the West on the Polish land after the fall of the communist totalitarianism, the appearance of new free states. Isolated by hostile military blocks and fighting social-political systems they were to meet and reflect on the motto, ‘You have received a spirit of sonship’ (Romans 8:15). And young people did not let him down. Ca. 100,000 people from the countries originated after the fall of the USSR came overcoming various difficulties. The biggest group was from Belarus (ca. 50,000), which was the merit of Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz. From Odessa in Ukraine there came ca. 1,000 pilgrims and from the whole Ukraine – ca. 30,000, including several thousand scouts. From Russia there came large groups from Leningrad (4,000), from Moscow (13,000) and from Novosibirsk (1,000). Most pilgrims from Belarus and Ukraine were Catholics and Greek Catholics. The Orthodox Christians prevailed in other groups, including young people who had been brought up without any religion and even connected with other religions. From the Jasna Gora Shrine the Holy Father spoke to them, ‘The Old Continent counts on you, dear young people from the European East and West, to build this «common house», from which we expect our future built on solidarity and peace. […] For the good of future generations it is necessary to base a new Europe on these spiritual values that constitute the very inner core of its cultural tradition. […] Please invite all those who have been disappointed with the earthy tasks of civilisation to collaborate in building «a civilisation of love». […] Many future things depend on the involvement of present generations of Christians. First of all, they depend on your involvement, girls and boys, who soon will feel responsible for your decisions that will determine your lives and the lives of many other people. Your mission is to secure the presence of such values as religious freedom, respect for personal dimension of development, protection of the human right to live from conception till natural death, concern for development and strengthening of families, appreciation of cultural diversities for mutual enrichment of all people, protection of the balance of natural environment, which is being endangered more and more. […] Dear young friends! Receive the Holy Spirit and be strong!’ When the Pope was about to leave Fr Jan Pach, a Pauline Father responsible for the organisation of the World Youth Day, noticed that there were still thousands of young people from the Eastern countries praying the rosary. The Holy Father decided to go to them. And again appeared at the field altar from which he directed several sentences and blessed their way back. It is hard to describe the atmosphere of those days. I remember the Jasna Gora commons and the Avenue filled with young people who greeted themselves, danced and sang in various languages. I also remember the III Avenue and Bieganskiego Square as well as the meadows between the streets of the Avenue named after John Paul II that were covered by pilgrims’ sleeping bags on the night of 14/15 August and I can remember the TV sets put on windowsills so that young people could watch the broadcast from Jasna Gora. I remember those Moscow students who slept in the tents in my courtyard… The song entitled ‘Abba, Father’ always sang at the evening meetings with the Holy Father at the square beneath the Jasna Gora Hill by several hundred thousands reminds me of the atmosphere of the World Youth Day. It was Fr Jan Gora, OP, that wrote the song for this occasion.