Warsaw, Poland — The Polish bishop overseeing preparations for World Youth Day 2016 has urged priests to ensure that no young people are excluded because of poverty.
Auxiliary Bishop Damian Muskus of Krakow, Poland, which is hosting the international celebration, said arranging for young people who might not be able to attend the event would be "our priestly gifts for youngsters in this Year of Mercy."
"We're well aware how much deprivation, unemployment and neglect there is, and this requires from us all sensitivity and solidarity with the poorest, so they won't feel left out," he said July 31, as preparations continued for the event set for July 26-31 in the southern Polish city.
Any assistance to young people should, Muskus explained, reflect "a compromise between awareness of youth possibilities and organizational needs and costs," but also should adhere to the event's theme, "Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy."
Meanwhile, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow said he was counting on participation by young people from all over the world, "and not only young Christians."
"We need a new view of the church, which is the risen Christ's gift to the world and all generations. But we also need enthusiasm in the faith, since this enthusiasm is often extinguished under the ashes of daily hardships and weaknesses," Dziwisz said in a homily.
"We count on words, voices and images from this shared festival reaching every country, home and family, every person seeking a sense of life and motives for hope," he added.
Pope Francis is scheduled to lead a televised Way of the Cross procession from the Krakow's Divine Mercy Sanctuary during World Youth Day, as well as a prayer vigil focusing on youth issues near the Wieliczka Salt Mine and a Mass in the city's Blonia Park.
Organizers said in May they were seeking 20,000 volunteers from Poland and abroad to help with the event, which is expected to attract up to 2.5 million young people, as well as 20,000 priests and 1,200 bishops.
They also have asked Poland's Foreign Ministry to reduce visa charges for young participants, including 300,000 expected from Russia, Ukraine and other former communist countries.
Poland's Catholic information agency, KAI, reported that 45,000 people had signed up to attend the festivities within 24 hours of the formal opening of registration July 26.
Speaking in Krakow, Muskus said all young participants should register via the multilingual website www.krakow2016.com to be guaranteed accommodation, food, transport and pilgrim materials, and to give organizers a clear idea of numbers.
Dziwisz told Mass attendees that World Youth Day would emulate the pope's wishes "that there's greater Gospel joy, solidarity and love among us, and that church becomes of church of the poor for the poor."
"This will be a great celebration of faith for young people from the whole world, lived by the whole church and not just by young Christians," the cardinal said.
"As Christians, we are responsible for the fate of the world, and for ensuring greater fraternity, solidarity and peace. If we don't live up to this challenge, then who will?"
A giant clock, counting down the minutes until the World Youth Day opening ceremony, was installed July 26 on the facade of Krakow's 14th-century St. Mary's Basilica.