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‘Visiting Poland is a great gift of the Lord,’ says Pope ahead of World Youth Day

A Polish group holds a banner at the conclusion of World Youth Day in Rio, in 2013 (AP)

The upcoming papal visit to Poland for World Youth Day is “a great gift of the Lord”, Pope Francis has said in a video message.

Speaking ahead of his trip to Poland from July 27-31, Pope Francis also described World Youth Day as “a pilgrimage of faith and fraternity”.

“Dear young people of Poland, I know that for some time now you have been preparing, especially with your prayers, for this great encounter in Kraków. I thank you heartily for everything that you have done, and for the love with which you have done it. Even now I embrace you and I bless you,” the Pope said, according to a translation of his message by Vatican Radio.

“Dear young people from throughout Europe, Africa, America, Asia and Oceania! I also bless your countries, your hopes and your journey to Kraków, praying that it will be a pilgrimage of faith and fraternity.”

The Pope also said he relished the “opportunity to meet the beloved Polish nation and that travelling to the country “is a great gift of the Lord”.

He added that Poland is “a nation that throughout its history has experienced so many trials, some particularly difficult, and has persevered through the power of faith, upheld by the maternal hands of the Virgin Mary.”

World Youth Day events take place in Kraków from July 25-31. During his time in Poland, the Pope will visit the Marian shrine of Czestochowa, Auschwitz and the meadows in Brzegi, where he will celebrate Mass.

In his video message, he said that “his entire visit will be inspired by Mercy during this Jubilee Year, and by the grateful and blessed memory of St John Paul II, who instituted the World Youth Days and was the guide of the Polish people in its recent historic journey towards freedom.”