President's address at Pope Francis' welcome ceremony
Polish President Andrzej Duda in the courtyard of Krakow's Wawel Castle on Wednesday afternoon officially welcomed Pope Francis, who came to Poland to take part in Roman Catholic festival World Youth Day.
"It is a great honour and joy for me to welcome the Holy Father on behalf of the Republic of Poland, on behalf of all my fellow countrymen, on behalf of guests, of our youth who came here to meet the Holy Father, that I can welcome you on the Polish land, that I can welcome you in Krakow, that I can welcome you at a great and unique spiritual feast on a holiday of great joy that makes World Youth Day," President Duda said in his initial words.
"It is special for us, Poles, that this great event - an event of joy, an event of heart, but above all an event of spirit, is taking place in this city - in the city of Saint John Paul II, of Karol Wojtyla, in Krakow. In the historic capital of Poland, Krakow, which used to be the city of Polish kings, in Krakow at the Wawel Castle where so many of those kings, heroes of our nation, great Poles, great leaders, found their final resting place. Near the Wawel Cathedral at the Royal Castle, in a place that is sacred for Poles, that is a symbol of Poland's great history, also a symbol of repeated rebirth of our nation and its strength which we have drawn from the Christian faith for 1,050 years. For 1,050 years since the baptism of Poland since when we record our history and since when we record the existence of our nation," the president went on.
"Holy Father, I am extremely pleased that this great meeting of youth is taking place in the city of a great Pole, John Paul II. Our Holy Father, who from this city went to the See of Peter to serve not only Krakow as a shepherd, not only Poland, as a cardinal, but to serve as a spiritual leader to the whole world. That this year, on the 1,050th anniversary of Poland's baptism, here in Krakow we are hosting World Youth Day. A meeting whose tradition he started. A meeting that brings together people from all over the world, regardless of their origin, regardless of the language they speak, it joins them in common faith, it joins them in joy, it joins them even in the most difficult moments. It lets them make friends, sometimes even find love, but first of all it lets them find out more about one another, lets them be together, lets them pray and strengthen themselves together," President Duda stressed.
"And I also thank you Holy Father for your arrival. Because Your Holiness' presence is the most precious for them. Because Your Holiness is spiritual support for them, is a beacon, is for them this great joy, hope and love that comes from the Christian religion, is what brings good. Good that today's world needs so much. Your Holiness, Holy Father John Paul II, when he came to us for the first time as a pope in 1979, said the famous words in Warsaw that all Poles have held dear. He said "let your Spirit descend and renew the face of the earth, the face of this land". And so it happened. In 1989 and later the face of the Polish land was renewed through a great political change, through the departure of the government that was hostile towards the Catholic Church and hostile towards faith due to which it often persecuted religious people, persecuted and murdered clergymen in Poland. We have managed to remove this government and Poles gained freedom. But today, looking at the contemporary world, one would like to cry "let your Spirit descend and renew the face of the earth", but not only this Polish land, but the entire earth. Today the earth needs values so much, it needs faith so much, it needs good so much today, or everything that Your Holiness brings with himself," the Polish president said.
"The young people and all of us, Poles, are extremely happy, Holy Father, that you are among us. And we are looking forward to your words," the president concluded. (PAP)