THE CROSS OF THE HOLY YEAR – THE CROSS OF WORLD YOUTH DAYS
BISHOP HENRYK TOMASIK
There are preparations for XXXI World Youth Days – Cracow 2016. Besides the organizational-logistic issues, spiritual preparation is extremely important: mainly a prayer. Many groups are praying in the intention of the World Youth Days which are going to be in Poland. An important phase of the spiritual preparation is going to be a pilgrimage of the cross of the World Youth Days. On Palm Sunday, 13 April 2014, a delegation of the Polish youth will receive signs of the World Youth Days from pope Francis: the cross and the copy of the image of Our Lady Salus Populi Romani. These signs will visit all dioceses of Poland. The history of the cross of the World Youth Days is very interesting. On 13 March 1983 the Holy Father John Paul II opened the Youth Centre San Lorenzo, located near the Basilica of St. Peter in Rome, at Pfeiffer street. In the preached homily at that time the Pope said: ‘The Centre becomes a place where the Cross is to be. Where to go in this world, with a sin and a fault without the Cross? The Cross is taking the whole poverty of the world which appears from the sin. The Cross appears as the sign of grace. It takes our solidarity and encourages to devote ourselves for others. We also recognize the tool of Salvation and the Gate of Resurrection in the Cross of the suffering and our own Cross. Because Lord overcame the sin and death just on the Cross’ (‘L’Osservatore Romano’, Polish edition, 3/1983, p.14).
Young people, gathered in this centre, joined the ceremony of opening the Jubilee Year of Salvation – 25 March 1983. On that day, at 5 p.m. the Holy Father arrived in the church Sancti Stephani Aethiopum, situated in the Vatican Gardens. Near this ancient church, cardinals, bishops, priests and alumni were waiting for the Pope. There were also young people from the Centre San Lorenzo, who brought a simple, wooden Cross of the sizes; 380 cm/175cm. It was included in the penitential procession which started at 5.20 p.m.
That procession was presided over by the Holy Father John Paul II, who was backing himself up with the traditional patriarch’s pastoral called ferula (in the form of the triple Cross). In the procession young people from the Centre San Lorenzo were carrying the aforementioned Cross.
The procession, with singing the Litany to All Saints, went across the Square of St. Peter and stopped at the atrium of the Basilica of St. Peter. At 5.40 p.m. John Paul II came up to the Holy Door. He banged at it three times with an ornamented hammer and said the words: ‘Open the door to justice’, and he opened the Holy Year. After opening the Holy Door, the Holy Father went through it as the first pilgrim. He was followed by young people carrying the big wooden Cross.
Next, this Cross was placed next to the confessional of St. Peter and became a sign of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Salvation. It was here for 394 days till the end of the Holy Year on Easter Sunday. On 22 April 1984, the Holy Father closed the Holy Door. Soon after the ceremony, in the atrium of the Basilica of St. Peter, John Paul II passed the Cross of the Holy Year to the youth and said: ‘Dear young people, at the end of the Holy Year, I am giving you the sign of this Jubilee Year: the Cross of Christ. Take it to the whole world as a sign of love, with which Jesus loves people and proclaim everybody that only in Christ, deceased and Risen, is there help and salvation’ (‘L’Osservatore Romano’, Polish edition 4/1984, p.1)
It is just the Cross of the Holy Year which became the Cross of the World Youth Days.