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Bishop Denis Nulty offers reflection at Prayer Service for Irish pilgrims at World Youth Day in Krakow

“A pilgrim and a tourist may follow the same itinerary, but the pilgrim is on a sacred journey in which God is encountered through people, places and situations” – Bishop Denis Nulty

Bishop Denis Nulty, Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, has delivered a reflection this afternoon to Irish pilgrims gathered in Krakow for World Youth Day 2016. The prayer service took place in the parish of Kazimierz which is also the host parish for many of the Irish pilgrims. It is also an English language catechesis venue.

During the past year, many young Irish people have been meeting locally and preparing for their pilgrimage. This afternoon’s gathering is an opportunity for young pilgrims to meet fellow Irish pilgrims from other parts of Ireland, beyond their own diocese.

The full text of Bishop Nulty’s reflection follows:

We all know where we’ve come from, but do we know where we’ve come to? Kraków. A guide book I read on Poland gave the following information about Kraków: “there’s so much to do in Kraków that the city requires a week’s stay to do it justice. It contains both low-brow and high-brow culture mixed with vitality and a sense of history”.

Kraków was the former capital city of Poland. Today Krakóvians continue to think of their city as Poland’s cultural and intellectual capital. For a few of you, you have been here before, one of the girls told me the other day she was here a month ago.

But we have come this time as pilgrims not as tourists. A pilgrim and a tourist may follow the same itinerary, but the pilgrim is on a sacred journey in which God is encountered through people, places and situations.

The tourist sees sights, discovers new places, learns interesting facts, takes photographs, sends postcards and collects souvenirs; the tourist returns home the same person. The pilgrim gains insights and discerns new truths about themselves, who they are in the world, where they fit into God’s plan. The pilgrim travels with the expectation that the one who returns will not be the same person as the one who set out.

In all our dioceses and movements, we have taken part in a programme of preparation, it was setting our mindsets right. It was preparing us for this experience, the experience of World Youth Day.

As we gather for what I understand is the first ‘Irish gathering’ during these World Youth Days, Pope Francis has just arrived at John Paul II International Airport in Balice and having had his welcoming ceremony is now on his way to meet Government authorities and the Diplomatic Corps. Later tonight he will meet the Polish Bishops in Wawel Cathedral and pray at the tomb of Saint Stanislaus where the relics of Saint John Paul II are also displayed.

Tourists pass through places, they seek out the ‘old town’; pilgrims pass through places, seeking out the new kingdom of mercy, love and peace. May we find that as we travel our journey accompanying Pope Francis over the next number of days. As important as our days of preparation were leading up to World Youth Day 2016, even more important will be the energy and enthusiasm we bring home as we unpack (not our bags, because we have brought very little!) but our experiences as we enliven and energise our local parish communities who have tremendously supported this journey. This is the perfect law of freedom, “actively putting the experience of World Youth Day into practice”!