Catholic Poland

Pilgrims to the upcoming World Youth Day in Krakow will have the opportunity to do much more than just see the pope. They’ll also have the opportunity to explore one of the most Catholic countries in Europe.

That faith is evident in the countless shrines that dot the Polish landscape.

Numbered among those shrines is Gietrzwald, known as the “Lourdes of Poland.” There, over the course of 10 weeks in 1877, the Virgin Mary appeared to two young girls, each time repeating one simple message: “Pray the Rosary.”

There is also Jasna Gora, home to the miraculous image of Our Lady of Czestochowa. Legend claims that the famous image of the Virgin and Child was painted by St. Luke the Evangelist and discovered by St. Helena during her exploration of the Holy Land.

Poland’s shrines, however, aren’t the country’s greatest testimony to its faith. The country produced three of the 20th century’s greatest saints: Maximilian Kolbe, Faustina Kowalska and Pope John Paul II.

This summer, World Youth Day pilgrims can visit Auschwitz, the Nazi concentration camp where Kolbe was imprisoned and eventually sacrificed his life.

In Krakow, the Shrine of Divine Mercy serves as the burying place for the great 20th century visionary and nun St. Faustina Kowalska.

Last but not least, pilgrims can pay tribute to the saint who introduced World Youth Days to the Church, Pope St. John Paul II, by visiting his hometown, Wadowice.

Emily Stimpson is an OSV contributing editor.

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