A United World in Paradise

Robert reflects on his first days at the Paradise in the City festival, ahead of World Youth Day.

Women received a white flower as part of the Way of the Cross ceremony in Paradise in the City (Photo: WYM)
Women received a white flower as part of the Way of the Cross ceremony in Paradise in the City (Photo: WYM)

So full of news; so little time.

Actually, not so little time. Just the right amount of time, as the bishop said yesterday; for this is all God’s time, and it is given for us, to us, today.

In the last 24 hours I have heard the Archbishop of Canterbury, several Catholic bishops, a refugee from Mosul, a Jew whose parents were killed in the Second World War, one of the founders of the Chemin Neuf, and so, so much more.

Pilgrims taking part in a talk in the main arena (Photo: WYM)
Pilgrims taking part in a talk in the main arena (Photo: WYM)

I wish I could put it in a bottle. I wish you were here. I’m not a man who cries much (ask my wife). Maybe twice in the last three years. Yesterday and today. Honestly, I feel like God is doing something in my heart, and it shouldn’t come as a surprise because God is always walking with us; but you know and I know that there are times when you feel his presence more keenly.

So I’m at a big, week-long camp for 3,500 young people of 79 different nationalities held here in Łódź. We are a fraction of the total number; and the majority of the people here speak French. Many of them speak English and/or Polish as well; and I was approaching this week with all the fear and trepidation of a lion tamer because I didn’t really want to be super holy, because I knew I would miss my kids, and, well… Brexit.

A pilgrim in prayer at Paradise in the City (Photo: WYM)
A pilgrim in prayer at Paradise in the City (Photo: WYM)

But you see, we are part of something that unites us that is stronger than trade, stronger than politics; that has outlived empires and nations – we are part of one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. They genuinely couldn’t care less about Brexit; but they do care if I am happy.

There are all the baptised here; Anglicans, Catholics, Methodists, Orthodox, the list goes on – and much of the theme is about unity.

And for a moment, I take my translation radio out of my ear (which, by the way, is incredible)… And my connection has not gone. True, I no longer understand the speaker on the stage – but I am surrounded by people who have all come here to do the same as me; to be a bit more like Jesus; to find out more about how much God loves me.

Westminster pilgrims during a Praise and Worship concert (Photo: WYM)
Westminster pilgrims during a Praise and Worship concert (Photo: WYM)

John Paul II was one of those responsible for the start of a movement called solidarity; which was instrumental in the fall of communism; but at it’s heart it was people of one heart and of one mind standing together and saying, as John Paul II said at Nova Huta, “They will never again be able to tell us that we are not children of God.”

For those coming to World Youth Day, there is dancing, music, food and sunshine; but more important than that, there are happy and open hearts here. There are people who are open to a world united.

You’ve missed out on the zorb football though. Plus, you need to get one of these radios because they are tres awesome.