CV NEWS FEED // Pilgrims are using an unlikely method of transportation to get to World Youth Day 2023.
They’re not walking, like pilgrims used to do in the Middle Ages.
They’re not going by car or airplane either, as one might expect of pilgrims traveling from other countries today.
Instead, groups of pilgrims from France and Poland are biking the hundreds of miles to Lisbon, Portugal, in a unique journey to World Youth Day.
The group from Poland—composed of two laymen and one priest—left first, setting out from Krakow on July 8. According to the Catholic News Agency (CNA), the trio plans to bike about 180 kilometers (112 miles) every day, biking 2,361 miles over the course of their pilgrimage. The pilgrims are staying with local families en route to Lisbon.
Traveling with a priest, Fr. Marcin Napora, means that spiritual growth and daily Mass are easily accessible to the pilgrims. In an interview with CNA, Fr. Napora said the trio hopes to raise awareness for vocations to the priesthood and religious life through their pilgrimage, as well as grow spiritually and develop their own characters along the way.
The three Polish pilgrims started off with a sendoff Mass in Krakow, celebrated by the auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Krakow, Robert Chrząszcz.
“Let this be an opportunity to bear witness to Christ, a new form of evangelization that perhaps appeals more to young people. …Certainly, this is the moment when the Church uses you to go out into the world,” the bishop said, according to CNA.
The Archdiocese of Krakow is also sending 2,000 other WYD pilgrims, who will join the cyclists in Lisbon on July 31.
A larger group of 17 cyclists left Troyes, France on July 16, also bound for Lisbon. According to CNA, this group consists of French youth, a priest, a deacon and his wife, a Colombian seminarian, four Polish young adults who met at WYD in Krakow in 2016, and a young man from Hong Kong. Their trip is shorter, as they plan to bike around 90 kilometers (56 miles) per day, traveling 560 miles in total. Similar to the Polish group, they will also stay with Catholics and local families throughout their journey.
Marie-Liesse, one of the French pilgrims, told CNA that “this trip is an opportunity to meet people and experience hospitality in France, Spain, and Portugal. It is a true pilgrimage that we experience by bicycle, and at the same time [is] a sporting and spiritual challenge.”
Marie-Liesse also said that traveling by bike allows the pilgrims to get to know one another and themselves better.
“It is a way of preparing for WYD, meeting Portuguese communities, young people from all over the world—and the pope,” she said.
The two groups from France and Poland aren’t the only ones bringing bikes to WYD. High school students from Gafanha da Nazaré, a small Portuguese town north of Lisbon, built two bikes out of scrap metal and plan on presenting them to the Pope at WYD.
CNA reported that the two bikes were a major project at the high school this year. António Rodrigues, a physics and chemistry teacher who led the project, told CNA that high schoolers are giving the bicycles to the pope in the hopes of “continuing the tradition of cycling,” which is common in Gafanha da Nazaré, as well as “promoting sustainability.”
According to CNA, local teachers hope the pope will take the bikes back to the Vatican and lend them to priests and religious to get around “at top speed.”