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Pope Francis calls on Poles to show compassion to migrants

Pope Francis with Polish President Andrzej Duda and his wife Agata Kornhauser-Duda (AP)

Pope Francis has urged Poles to show compassion to migrants, after arriving in Kraków for World Youth Day.

Cloudy skies and a light drizzle did little to dampen the spirits of pilgrims cheering loudly as the Pope’s plane landed in Kraków on July 27. The arrival ceremony at Kraków’s John Paul II International Airport was marked by the presence of hundreds of Polish men and women, dressed in traditional clothes and dancing.

Stepping down from his plane and before he departed for Wawel Castle, Pope Francis was greeted by Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Kraków, Polish President Andrzej Duda and first lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda.

Addressing civil authorities and members of the country’s diplomatic corps, the Pope noted that “memory is the hallmark of the Polish people;” a notable characteristic of his predecessor, St John Paul II.

He said being aware of identity was “indispensable for establishing a national community on the foundation of its human, social, political, economic and religious heritage,” but that people must remain open to renewal and to change. He added that while good memory can remind society of God and his saving work, bad memory keeps the mind and heart “obsessively fixed on evil, especially the wrongs committed by others,” he said.

Pope Francis called on the people of Poland to hold on to their positive memories so they can look to the future with hope in respecting human dignity, economical and environmental concerns and “the complex phenomenon of migration.”

The issue of migration, he added, “calls for great wisdom and compassion, in order to overcome fear and to achieve the greater good.”

“Also needed is a spirit of readiness to welcome those fleeing from wars and hunger, and solidarity with those deprived of their fundamental rights, including the right to profess one’s faith in freedom and safety,” he said.

Pope Francis, who has brought attention to the plight of migrants in the past, met with 15 young refugees prior to his departure to Kraków. The Vatican press office said the young refugees are currently in Italy without documents that will allow them to travel out of the country.

“The youths, accompanied by the papal almoner, wished the pope a good journey and a happy participation at WYD, to which they cannot participate but are united spiritually,” the Vatican said.

Inviting Polish people to “look with hope to the future,” the Pope said the memory of their thousand-year history would create a climate of respect that fosters a better life for future generations.

“The young should not simply have to deal with problems, but rather be able to enjoy the beauty of creation, the benefits we can provide and the hope we can offer,” he said.

Social policies, he added, must also support families who are “the primary and fundamental cell of society” as well as “helping responsibly to welcome life” so that children may be seen as a gift and not a burden.

“Life must always be welcome and protected. These two things go together, welcome and protection, from conception to natural death. All of us are called to respect life and care for it.”

Poland’s President Andrzej Duda said that Pope Francis brings to Poland and thousands of young pilgrims the values that the world needs today: faith and goodness.

Greeting Francis at Wawel Castle, Duda said the Pontiff is a “support, a road sign” in life for young people.

Duda, a Catholic from Kraków, said: “The world today badly needs values, it needs faith and goodness, all of which Your Holiness is bringing. We are all waiting for your word.”

Francis and Duda also met for a one-on-one talk for half an hour before the Pope  prayed by the relics of St John Paul II at  Wawel Cathedral. He also met with Poland’s bishops at the cathedral who vowed to “listen carefully” to his teaching.

Kraków Archbishop, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz opened the meeting with Francis by saying that his presence deepens their awareness of being a part of the Catholic Church that crosses national and cultural borders.

Dziwisz said: “We will listen carefully to your words.”

Pope Francis is visiting Poland to join hundreds of thousands of young people from around the globe for celebrations of the World Youth Day.

For a full World Youth Day schedule, go here.