‘Kiss the Polish soil’: Pope Francis to youth

Pope John Paul II kissing the soil on his arrival at Warsaw Airport in July 1979. Photo: Keystone/Getty Images

Pope Francis has addressed Polish Catholic youths heading off to an annual gathering in Lednica, western Poland.

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“Kiss the Polish soil on my behalf, just like St John Paul II used to do,” the pope told a general audience in the Vatican.

Polish Pope John Paul II regularly got on his knees and kissed the ground when arriving at a new destination. One notable instance was when he first visited Poland in 1979 after becoming pope. The visit was seen as a strong gesture against the communist authorities of the time.

The current head of Roman-Catholic Church added on Wednesday that he sent special regards to the participants of the Youth Meeting in Lednica.

“They should heed the words of Jesus, who said ‘And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age’ (Matthew 28:16-20 – ed.),” the pope said.

“I am glad with your initiative and presence there,” the pontiff added

Pope Francis also spoke to Poles who were present on Saint Peter’s square. “Let the stay in Rome strengthen your faith, hope and love,” he said.

The Youth Meeting Lednica 2000 (known as Lednica) is an annual gathering of Polish Catholic youth, organized near Gniezno, western Poland.

The location is believed to be the place where the first Polish monarch, Mieszko I, was baptized in 966. Lednica is one of the largest regular religious youth meeting in the world.