It was a restful morning in the accommodation to start with for the group, with our first activity beginning at noon. This was a mass in our accommodation hallway given by Fr Richard who, as always, spoke positively and about the lessons from our pilgrimage and today’s gospel.
Following this the group travelled into the center square and had lunch. This lunch prepared us for another lengthy (and rain soaked) walk to Balonia Park. However, this time the walk and rain was met with more excitement as we were headed to the first official address from Pope Francis to this year’s pilgrims. The size of the crowds seriously swelled for this event and at times we became separated and crowded within the groups of pilgrims. All the struggles were soon forgotten once we caught a glimpse of his Holiness. This was the first time we were in the presence of the Holy Father and the excitement of the crowd was palpable, with continuous and loud chants of “Papa Francisco” bellowing across the field. When the Pope began to talk the crowd fell silent and was gripped to every word he said. His Holiness was engaging and encouraging spreading the message of mercy and of connection with faith. He spoke about young people who lead boring and sinful live and how encouraging it was to see so many engaged and joyful young pilgrims. His message was about living the best life we can, the most holy life and a life of compassion and honor against injustice. The sight of seeing all pilgrims listening to the talk on radios or phones was another reminder of the global reach of the church and the worldwide community we are all a part of.
Once the Pope had departed the stage, the group decided wait for the crowds to die down before walking back. This time was spent dancing and singing along to the music, exchanging and trading gifts with other pilgrims as well as posing for group photos with fellow pilgrims.
The night ended with dinner as a group in the center square before trudging back in the rain for a well – earned sleep!