KRAKOW, Poland (AP) — The Latest on Pope Francis’ trip to Poland for World Youth Day events (all times local):
The head of Poland’s Episcopate says that Pope Francis invoked empathy for migrants and the Gospels in his closed-door meeting with Poland’s bishops.
The meeting was held Wednesday, at the start of Francis’ visit to Krakow, in southern Poland, where he is joining hundreds of thousands of young people from around the globe in celebrations of World Youth Day through Sunday.
Poland’s conservative government has shut the doors to migrants, a stance that is also attributed to church leaders in the country who support the government on many issues.
Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki said the pope stressed that the Gospels require help to be offered to people in difficult situations and spoke in a way that evoked empathy in the bishops. More can be done to help the migrants, the meeting concluded.
Pope Francis has thanked all those who have expressed condolences over the murder of a French priest, singling out French President Francois Hollande.
Francis told reporters aboard his flight Wednesday from Rome to Poland that “even the president of France wanted to be in contact with me by phone, like a brother, thank you.”
Francis was speaking about the elderly priest who was slain by an extremist in Normandy, France, a day earlier while he was saying Mass.
Pope Francis has greeted and blessed a massive crowd of enthusiastic young pilgrims in Krakow, addressing them from the same window in the city’s Bishop’s Palace that the late Polish pope, John Paul II, would appear from during his visits to his homeland.
The crowd sang and danced before and after the pope’s appearance.
Francis began by asking people to pray quietly for a 22-year-old volunteer for the World Youth Day gathering who had designed flags adoring the event. The young man died of cancer earlier this month.
The pope told them: “Some of you might think ‘this pope is ruining our evening.’ But it’s the truth and we need to get used to the good things and bad things. Life is like this, dear young people.”
Pope Francis has prayed by the relics of the late pope from Poland, St. John Paul II, at the Wawel Cathedral and has met with Poland’s bishops who vowed to “listen carefully” to his teaching.
Francis came on a five-day visit to Poland to join hundreds of thousands of young people from around the globe for celebrations of the World Youth Day.
Observers say that Poland’s church is not fully in sync with Francis’ philosophy of modesty and humility.
Krakow Archbishop, Card. 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.”
Poland’s President Andrzej Duda says that Pope Francis brings to Poland and thousands of young pilgrims the values that the world needs today: faith and goodness.
Greeting Francis at a welcoming ceremony at Wawel Castle in Krakow, Duda said the pontiff is a “support, a road sign” in life for young people.
Duda, a Catholic from Krakow, says: “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 met with Poland’s church leaders.
Pope Francis has urged Poland’s leaders “to overcome fear” and show compassion to migrants. Fears run deep in the strongly Catholic nation that Muslim refugees could endanger the nation’s security and erode its Christian traditions.
Noting that many Poles have emigrated from their country, Francis spoke of the need to facilitate their return if any hope to repatriate, and understand the reasons that caused them to leave.
He added: “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.”
Francis spoke Wednesday in the southern Polish city of Krakow shortly after arriving at the start of a five-day visit to Poland.
Last year Poles elected the right-wing Law and Justice party, which supports the Catholic church but has a strong anti-migrant message at odds with the pontiff’s calls for mercy for people of other religions fleeing conflict.
Pope Francis has been greeted in Poland by President Andrzej Duda and hundreds of singing and cheering people as he arrived at the airport in Krakow.
He will join hundreds of thousands of young people from around the globe for a major Catholic gathering.
Among those greeting the pope were also First Lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda and Prime Minister Beata Szydlo, who kneeled and kissed the papal ring in Poland’s traditional way of greeting high Church officials.
Szydlo’s conservative government openly declares attachment to the Catholic faith.
A military band played the anthems of the Vatican of Poland and the crowd waved the white-and-yellow flags of the Holy See and white-and-red flags of Poland. Despite visibly tight security the pontiff waved from an open car window to the cheering crowd.
An official welcoming ceremony with speeches was to be held shortly later, at the royal Wawel Castle in Krakow.
It is the first time that Francis visits an East European nation.
Pope Francis says the world is at war, but is stressing that it’s not a war of religions.
Francis spoke to reporters on the papal plane en route from Rome to Poland, where he began a five-day visit Wednesday.
Asked about the slaying of an 85-year-old priest in a Normandy church on Tuesday, Francis replied: “the real word is war…yes, it’s war. This holy priest died at the very moment he was offering a prayer for all the church.”
He went on: “I only want to clarify, when I speak of war, I am really speaking of war … a war of interests, for money, resources. … I am not speaking of a war of religions, religions don’t want war. The others want war.”
Poland’s interior minister says more than 39,000 police and other security officers will be ensuring the safety of Pope Francis’ meeting with hundreds of thousands of young pilgrims from around the globe in southern Poland.
Security concerns were heightened after a Catholic priest was killed in France on Tuesday in a knife attack claimed by the Islamic State group.
Mariusz Blaszczak spoke about the extraordinary security measures on Wednesday just three hours before Francis was due to arrive in Krakow for a visit through Sunday that includes open air Masses and prayers with some 1.5 million participants of World Youth Day, and visits to the site of the former German Nazi death camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau and to Poland’s holiest shrine of Jasna Gora.
“We have sent onto the Polish streets more than 7,500 officers who will be there providing security each day at railways stations, airports and shopping centers,” Blaszczak told a news conference.
Blaszczak also appealed to people to be vigilant and to report and unusual or worrying situations to police or other security officials.
“We do not disregard any signals but Poland is a very safe country,” Blaszczak said.
Pope Francis has departed Rome for Poland, where he will spend five days meeting with young Catholics and visiting Auschwitz as well as some of Poland’s most important Catholic shrines.
An Alitalia jet, bearing the papal and Italian flags, took off from Rome shortly after 2 p.m. local time (1200 GMT) and is due to land in Krakow, Poland, about two hours later.
It will be the first visit by Francis to Poland, one of Europe’s most deeply Catholic nations and one still devoted to the memory of the late Polish pope, St. John Paul II.
Francis is joining young Catholics for World Youth Day, a global gathering. The usually joyful event, which takes place every two or three years, is overshadowed this year by the brutal slaying Tuesday of a Catholic priest in France by Islamic extremists.
Security was high as cheerful young pilgrims from around the globe gathered in Krakow, in southern Poland, just hours before Pope Francis arrives to join World Youth Day.
A shadow was cast on the celebrations by the brutal slaying Tuesday of a priest in France, adding to security fears already high due to a string of violent attacks in France and Germany. Polish officials said they have deployed tens of thousands of security officials to cover the event, which runs through Sunday.
“It shocked me because it seems they waited for the time of World Youth Day to attack us Catholics,” said Nounella Blanchedent, 22, from the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe. “They chose the time of such a mass event to gather more attention to what they do. It’s a pity because all that we want to do is to be together, sing and praise God. And they want to disturb that.”
She was one of the volunteers helping with logistics at the packed St. Casimir Church, where a Mass was being held in French for pilgrims from France, Belgium and other countries. Relics of St. Mary Magdalene came to the church from France for the duration of World Youth Day.
Pope Francis is arriving on his first visit to Poland, a predominantly Catholic country that is still proud of the late pontiff, St. John Paul II, who served as priest and archbishop in Krakow before becoming pope.
The sense of expectation was apparent in sunny Krakow on Wednesday with papal white-and-yellow flags and images of Francis and John Paul II decorating the streets. Stages were put up at many locations for concerts and other activities that are being held by and for the pilgrims in Krakow.
There was a heavy presence of police and other security forces across the city, as crowds were increasing everywhere.
“I have never seen so many people in Krakow, it’s difficult to move around even though offices have closed (for the event) and many people have left the city,” said Anna Gazda, 43, owner of a souvenir shop.
The weather forecast for Krakow said rainstorms were possible later in the day.
Some 200,000 pilgrims attended an inaugural Mass Tuesday afternoon.