At 4:07pm, Pope Francis appeared at the doors of the plane that had carried him from Rome to Krakow.
The welcoming ceremony took place in the military section of John Paul II International Airport Kraków–Balice.
People gathered in the airport chanted: “Witamy Ojca Świętego Franciszka w Krakowie” (We welcome the Holy Father Francis to Krakow), “Benvenuto a Cracovia.” They waved white and red flags as well as Vatican flags.
The president of Poland, Andrzej Duda, and his wife, Agata Kornhauser–Duda, together with the archbishop of Krakow, Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz, were also present at the ceremony. In response to Pope Francis’ greeting, soldiers from the Representative Battalion of the Polish Armed Forces responded: “Czołem Jego Świętobliwości” (a respectful military greeting).
The Krakow Military Orchestra performed the Polish and Vatican anthems. The World Youth Day theme song was also sung.
The Pope was also greeted by young members of the AGH Song and Dance Ensemble “Krakus” in memory of Wiesław Białowąs, who were dressed in traditional Krakow clothing and performed a Krakow suite.
“There are 40 of us here today. This is an amazing experience and a great honour for us to be able to be here and welcome Pope Francis,” said Alicja Zell, a member of the “Krakus” ensemble.
The car carrying the pope stopped at the barriers behind which those greeting Pope Francis stood. BOR (Biuro Ochrony Rządu, or Government Protection Bureau) officers handed the pope a little girl, whom he blessed. “I secretly hoped this would happen. It seems that Ola is one of the youngest people who greeted Pope Francis at the airport. We are very happy about this. I believe that the very hands of God blessed her. I think that the pope will now be forever present in my daughter’s life. I am very touched and happy,” said Barbara Kudasik, the mother of young Ola.
This morning, before his departure to Krakow, Pope Francis prayed with a group of young persons with disabilities near St. John Paul II’s tomb in Saint Peter’s Basilica. The pope was joined by members of the Peter Pan Association, which works in countries all over the world and takes care of young people with cancer who cannot afford expensive treatment. They decided to organize a “little” World Youth Day nearby the tomb of the saint pope.
The official welcoming of Pope Francis took place around 5:00pm at Wawel Castle. There, the Holy Father met with the president of Poland and with Polish bishops.
Izabela Czak, KAI
Photo: Paulina Krzyżak