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Father Benedict at the Reno airport with other youth from the diocese getting ready to leave for Poland.

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Along side us as we prepared for the Pope’s candlelight Vigil and Benediction service.

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There are pilgrims from all over the world, like this group from Cebu Philippines in red.  After the Vigil all the pilgrims slept under the stars awaiting the Pope’s closing Mass.

Immediately after closing Mass

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This is where Pope Francis announced Panama as the next site for WYD in 2019, the multitude of international pilgrims estimated at upwards of 2.5 million, depart the  Vigil & Mass venue in the outskirts of Poland (aptly named by the Polish Church as “Campus Misericordiae” (Campus of Mercy)  to return to their Polish lodging and prepare for flights back to their home countries the next day.

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Photos “Auschwitz”   & “Kolbe”    A tremendously sobering experience for the World Youth Day pilgrims during what was overall a time of joy & exuberance was their visit to the Auschwitz concentration camp of the Nazi regime, not far from Krakow.  You can see by the expressions and body language of the pilgrims how inexpressibly sad is the experience of viewing this place where 1.2 million Jews were murdered during WWII.  The picture with the barbed wire fence cannot fully capture the rows upon rows of prison barracks on the right, where Jews of all ages were imprisoned, emotionally tortured, and 90% of them executed.   A large billboard photo marks the place where Catholic priest St Maximillian Kolbe gave-up his life in place of a Jewish man who had a family.

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 A group of pilgrims from the diocese of Sacramento led by Fr Benedict DeLeon arrives in Blonia Park in Krakow Poland for the welcoming ceremony for Pope Francis at World Youth Day 2016.  Flags from various countries around the world can be seen flying in the background, being waved proudly by their respective pilgrims.

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Fr Benedict DeLeon and the WYD pilgrims about to participate at Sunday Mass at the Wawel Cathedral in Krakow, the home cathedral of Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II.

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Celebrating the Holy Year Jubilee of Mercy in a special and privileged way,  WYD pilgrims from our diocese arrive at the Basilica of Divine Mercy in Krakow Poland, paying homage to the great “Apostles of Mercy”  St Faustina and St Pope John Paul II, whose relics are placed in the Basilica’s sanctuary.  In the foreground from left are pilgrims from St Theresa parish in So Lake Tahoe: Mattison Underhill, Katie Sears, Alexis Holmes, David Holmes and Marin Underhill.

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Bishop Soto (second from the right) hosts pilgrims from the Sacramento Diocese to a dinner in Krakow following the official Opening Mass for World Youth Day on July 26.  Fr Benedict DeLeon standing in center with some of his pilgrims representing Tahoe, Oroville, Redding and Sacramento youth groups.