Francis to meet Auschwitz survivors during visit to Poland

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Pope Francis will meet hospitalized children and survivors of the Nazi death camp of Auschwitz and ride on a tram when he visits Poland next month — and is planning a surprise, officials said Thursday.

Francis will be in Poland July 27-31 for the 14th World Youth Day meeting in and near Krakow, in southern Poland, with hundreds of thousands of young people from around the world. The meetings were initiated in 1985 by Polish-born Pope St. John Paul II.

Francis’ schedule, released Thursday, includes a visit to the Auschwitz memorial on July 29, where he will meet with a few survivors in the Auschwitz part of the former vast death camp that was operated by Nazi Germans in occupied Poland. The pope will then pray and speak at the memorial to the victims, located in the Birkenau part of the former camp. Francis will also hold a private prayer at the death cell of Father Maksymilian Maria Kolbe, a Catholic friar who offered to die for another inmate, Franciszek Gajowniczek, who survived Auschwitz.

Later that day, Francis will pay a private visit to a children’s hospital in Krakow.

On July 28, Francis will fly in the morning on half-a-day visit to Poland’s holiest shrine, Jasna Gora, in the town of Czestochowa, where he will celebrate a Mass on the occasion of 1,050 years of Catholicism in Poland. In the afternoon he will take a city tram in Krakow to go to a meeting with world youth.

The organizers say that some 570,000 participants have registered so far, but they are expecting up to 2 million at the peak point, a Mass on July 31.

Papal Nuncio Archbishop Celestino Migliore also says Francis is planning a surprise, giving no further details.

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