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East Anglia pilgrims head to Krakow as bishop joins them

The Diocese of East Anglia's 80-strong World Youth Day pilgrim group headed for Krak£w after a week in a Polish Diocese at Zakopane, and were joined by Bishop Alan Hopes. Clare Storey reports.

WYDLogoWorld Youth Day ' Day Six, July 25

After praying the Rosary as a group in the Chapel we were up quite late last night for our last evening in Zakopane. Some of the group went into town to relax and unwind ahead of what will be a busy week between meeting other pilgrims, catechesis sessions and a bit of exploring the city. Others stayed in playing cards or making music.

Angela, Aiden, Agata, Pete and Fr Henry had a session in the common room with a mandolin, guitar and a cajon. Clodagh took no time in teaching Fr Adam and Clare some traditional Irish country dancing, after having a go on the guitar and raising the roof with Chrissie.

This morning we were up early for morning prayer. Paul led us through the Divine Office before we headed off to our final breakfast in Zakopane. We heaved our luggage downstairs, had a last few photos, said our goodbyes to Fr Stan and set off for Krak£w.

After two-and-a-half hours we stopped at St Bernard’s Monastery, where the church was given Minor Basilica status by Saint John Paul II when he was Pope. It is very typical in Polish Catholic churches, particularly in the larger ones, to have many smaller (and some not so small!) side altars with different dedications.

All the churches have a lot of Marian imagery to reflect the great devotion of the Polish people to Our Lady. The images are not dissimilar to those which we would find at home, although it seems that icons are more commonplace.

After taking in the site, we admired the view in front of the church and had another group photo before getting back on the bus to our next stop of Wadowice, the hometown of JPII or Karol Wojtya as he was known before his Papacy.

On our arrival in Wadowice, the main coach park was full with buses of pilgrims from all around the world, including the USA and Africa. We eventually found somewhere to park and walked into the town centre.

In the centre of Wadowice is the Basilica of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary that John Paul would have attended as a child. The font where the child Karol was baptised can be found to the left of the altar in a side aisle. The future Pope was also an altar server here and is known to have spent time praying in front of the image of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. In 1938, Karol left Wadowice for Krak£w to study at the Jagiellonian University.

The flat the Wojtyla family lived in is next to the church, and was rented from a local Jewish family.

From Wadowice, the journey to Krak£w continued. The lack of sleep caught up with us again, and finally we had arrived at the hotel on the southern edge of Krak£w. Fr Michael celebrated Mass for usin a room in the hotel. Shortly after Bishop Alan, Fr Padraig Hawkins and Monsignor Eugene Harkness arrived and we all had dinner together.

We met a group of Canadians also staying in the hotel, and as we speak we are mostly having a quiet night in before taking some time to investigate the contents of our pilgrim packs and explore the city before things kick off on Wednesday.

It is great to finally be in Krak£w. The quote of the day belongs to Jess when she said she hadn’t been so excited about something (being here for WYD) since Christmas as a little kid.

Bishop Alan Hopes has flown out to join the East Anglia pilgrims. See a message from him below.

Follow the East Anglia group's progress on social media at https://twitter.com/igniteyea and https://www.facebook.com/igniteyea/

Sign up for a regular enews bulletin at www.rcdea.org.uk (see form on left-hand side of this page.

Pictured top, East Anglia pilgrims say goodbye to Zakopane. For a full picture gallery of the trip, see below.

World Youth Day - East Anglia Pilgrims July 2016