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Pakistani Catholics gear up for World Youth Day

Annual youth camp provides guidelines to its delegation ahead of celebrations in Poland

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Pakistani Catholics gear up for World Youth Day

Participants at the National Youth Camp in Ayubia. (Photo supplied)

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The Pakistani Church used its annual youth camp to provide guidelines to its delegation ahead of World Youth Day celebrations in Poland next week.

The five-day camp was themed on "personal growth and self-assessment," and concluded July 17. It was a final stop for the 11-member delegation that is ready to depart July 24 for Poland to attend the World Youth Day programs July 25-31 in Krakow.

Archbishop Sebastian Shah of Lahore will head the delegation which includes five young Catholics, four priests and one lay leader. They will participate in the flag ceremony, inaugural Mass, welcoming Pope Francis, Stations of the Cross and the final Mass.

"This is not a leisure trip, but a pilgrimage," said Pervez Roderick, secretary of Pakistan's Catholic Youth Commission. Some will be sleeping in a stadium under open skies, there will be no public transport and many will have to walk for several kilometers to reach the venue," he said.

Roderick said he has been organizing for this trip for years. "I hope the international exposure will make us more vibrant and develop our perception about the mission of the church," he told

According to Roderick, funding constraints resulted in a small delegation. "We could only get one representative from each youth group in only five dioceses out of seven. Also, two members' visas were rejected," he said.

Haroon Tariq, 19, has been preparing for the trip for two months. This is the second time the Lahore student will see Pope Francis in person. Tariq flew to Colombo last year when the Holy Father visited Sri Lanka in January.

"I traveled alone to see the pope. It was not easy in the crowd of millions. Still, it was a blessing for me and my family," he said.

This time, he will be presenting a note on "What it means to be a Christian in Pakistan" during a prayer session at World Youth Day. "There are many problems being minority in an Islamic country," he said. "Education is a major problem because Christian students are taught catechism in Catholic schools but they still have to take an Islamiyat (Islamic education) exam in 10th grade because it's compulsory."

"We shall try to represent ourselves as a strong group and share our experiences with others when we return," he added.

St. Pope John Paul II initiated the World Youth Day gathering in 1985. Held in a different place every three years, the World Youth Day is a week-long festival to celebrate faith through songs, dances, prayers, and sharing of experiences.

During the 2013 World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Pope Francis announced Krakow as the venue for the 2016 event. Krakow, is near the birthplace of St. Pope John Paul II and where he spent much of his youth.

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