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    Pope To Young People At The Oblate’s Festival of Life: Be Friends of Jesus, Go To The World On The Path of Mission

    The Festival of Life has begun. Crowds of young people from all over the world came to Kokotek, Poland, for the whole week. From the very beginning, a surprise awaited them – Pope Francis addressed his message to them!

    On Monday morning, a river of young people with backpacks, suitcases and tents flowed into Kokotek, Poland. Over 1,000 people from all over the country – and even from other countries – came to the Festival of Life – the biggest and longest outdoor Christian festival for youth in Poland.

    A group of several dozen people from the Oblate’s parish in Brussels, Belgium, was going to the festival for over 20 hours.

    – I’ve been here for the fourth time, it’s the best week of the year. The atmosphere, so many young people, sleeping in tents… At the Festival of Life, you can simply feel God’s power – says Karolina, a young Pole living in the capital of Belgium. – I look forward to the worship concert the most, all the other concerts, Masses and workshops. Every year I meet new people here, I talk to some of them until today and we immediately greet each other when we meet here, on the spot – adds Monika from Brussels, for whom this is the third festival.

    “The Festival of Life leads young people to discover their lives – and the joy of life – so that after the festival, returning to their everyday life, they can live it beautifully and with gratitude. It is a great joy for me that there are more of us every year. We are happy that during this week we will create a young, lively and energetic Church,”

    emphasizes Father Tomasz Maniura OMI from the NINIWA Oblate Youth Ministry, the organizer of the Festival of Life.

    Pope Francis to the participants of the Festival of Life

    The opening Mass was presided over by Bishop Grzegorz Suchodolski, chairman of the Council for Youth Ministry of the Polish Episcopal Conference, who in the evening also played with young people on the stage. Earlier, the superior of the community of missionary Oblates in Kokotek, Father Mieczysław Hałaszko OMI, read the message from Pope Francis addressed to young people gathered at the Festival of Life.

    „The Holy Father appreciates the rich and diverse program of the Festival of Life, which includes concerts, entertainment, fun and sports activities, as well as – above all – religious and prayer meetings. At the same time, he shares the hope of the organizers of the event that it will be a time of active holiday rest for young people, as well as an opportunity to think, get to know each other better and experience the young, living Church and share the spirit of faith, hope and love with others” – we can read in the letter sent from the Holy See.
    
    „Pope Francis hopes that »the voice of one crying in the wilderness« will show the participants their unique value, originality and courage, and will lead them on the path of mission with which they will go further into the world” – was written in reference to the content of this year's Festival of Life, which is determined by the figure of St. John the Baptist.
    
    „For the participants of the Festival of Life, the organizers, the young people involved in youth ministries, especially in the NINIWA Oblate Youth Ministry, and all those interested in the event, His Holiness wishes them to be friends of Jesus and His faithful witnesses on a daily basis” – concludes the letter signed by Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra from the Vatican Secretariat of State.

    Monday at the Festival of Life ended with a crazy integration party hosted by DJ Tomek Cichy.

    „God offers everyone an original path of life. Do we have the courage for that?”

    After Monday’s inauguration, Tuesday was the first full day of the Festival of Life. Many participants were waiting for the workshop. The organizers have prepared several dozen proposals – from topics related to spirituality, through personal development or interpersonal competencies, to classes in boxing, survival or medieval sword fighting.

    After a slightly chilly night at the campsite, the festival goers were roused from sleep by a musical wake-up call, and right after that, it was time to meet the first guest who came to Kokotek from across the ocean. The conference was delivered by Professor Andrzej Jastrzębski OMI – missionary Oblate, scientist and lecturer at the University of St. Paul in Ottawa, Canada, dealing with interdisciplinary research on the integral approach to man in philosophy, theology, psychology and neurobiology. During the conference, he addressed the topic of being original, combining threads from the life of St. John the Baptist, with fragments of „Star Wars”.

    “Each of us has to struggle with our past, especially with our family and the darkness that is present in family history. But there is hope! God wants to redeem these stories and offers everyone an original, unique path of life. Do we have the courage to take a risk and follow it? Or will we be convinced that we are worthless, that we have to repeat patterns from the past? God invites us for an adventure and gives us all the necessary means to become who we are supposed to be,”

    argued Fr. Andrzej Jastrzębski OMI summarizing his conference.

    In the evening, a unique, phenomenal concert was conducted by Jan Stokłosa – a famous Polish composer, arranger and conductor, winner of many music awards. The choir and orchestra of the Song and Dance Ensemble „Śląsk” performed on stage together with the festival band 3 Days 3 Nights – a total of over 80 artists. It was an amazing musical story about the fate of St. John the Baptist. The concert was entirely composed especially for this year’s Festival of Life, and probably it was the only opportunity to hear it.

    The Festival of Life will last until Sunday

    The program also includes a meeting with Marcin Zieliński, a well-known evangelizer and charismatic, as well as an extreme, spectacular Festival Run through water, mud and forest.

    The culmination of events is expected on Saturday. In the morning there will be a long-awaited meeting with Monika Hoffman-Piszora, the author of the @monika_i_dzieciaki_cudaki blog on Instagram. At 6 pm, a concert will be performed by Daria Marx, a rising star of the Polish music scene, whose songs – „Love Blind”, „Paranoia” or „Never Ending Story” – are breaking into the top of the charts and playlists.

    And at 8.00 pm, the concert will be played by Tribbs – a music producer, DJ and composer, who made his mark in Poland thanks to the covers of old Polish stars’ hits, gaining millions of plays, and recently became an unexpected star of Eurovision, but not as a performer, but the author of a song for the representative of Switzerland Remo Forrera, finalist of the competition.

    The festival will end on Sunday with a solemn Holy Mass under the leadership of Archbishop Adrian Galbas from the Metropolitan of Katowice.

    The Festival of Life – a Christian Woodstock?

    The Festival of Life has been organized since 2018 in Kokotek, a forest district of Lubliniec in Silesia, Poland. In the first years, the event took place under one of the largest tents in Europe, brought from Belgium, and since last year, the festival has completely become an outdoor event, as the main events moved to a huge, several dozen-meter stage.

    Previously, the festival stage hosted Golec uOrkiestra, Luxtorpeda, Roksana Węgiel, Kamil Bednarek, Kuba Badach, Arka Noego, and TGD. The speeches were given by Wojciech Modest Amaro, Jan Mela, Sylwia Jaśkowiec, Tomasz Samołyk, Ania Golędzinowska, and Monika and Marcin Gomułka from the Beginning of Eternity blog.

    The main organizer of the Festival of Life is Fr. Tomasz Maniura OMI, an Oblate missionary and founder of the NINIWA Youth Ministry, known for leading NINIWA Team bike expeditions (including to Jerusalem, Morocco, Nordkapp, Siberia) and creating a thriving recreational and holiday centre in Kokotek. Several Polish dioceses and orders are involved in organizing the event. Since 2023, the Festival of Life has received honorary patronage from the Polish Episcopal Conference.

    More information at www.festiwalzycia.pl. Follow the Festival of Life on FacebookInstagramTikTok and YouTube.

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