WYD 2016 hymn sang after the Final Mass.
The 2016 World Youth Day in Kraków: Global Catholicism, National Politics, Local Heritages
In July 2016 World Youth Day (WYD) – a global mass event organized every two or three years by the Roman Catholic Church and dedicated to young people – brought almost one million visitors to Kraków for a week. Although the WYD builds upon a traditional concept of ’religious pilgrimage’, it leans toward a popular, mass-culture festival and cyclical highly branded global popular event (however, exclusively dedicated to ‘young Catholics’). It also has a political dimension since it is always combined with an official visit by a pope to a host-country and often involves numerous local politicians. As we realized, the 2016 WYD in Kraków stimulated old and created new discourses about religions and heritages within local (inhabitants of the city), national (state institutions, politicians) as well as transnational (global pilgrims) contexts.
To grasp these discourses, we conducted ethnographic fieldwork before, during and after the WYD, collecting materials among Kraków’s inhabitants as well as pilgrims. Particularly we focused on the event’s scenery. WYD organizers successfully drew on Kraków’s local and national symbolic capital and its ‘Christian heritage’ to frame this global event in religious terms. Kraków’s cityscape appeared to be experienced by pilgrims as pervaded with ‘religious heritage’ and ‘spiritual value’. At the same time, this ‘globalization’ of national and local religious heritages was often contested by local inhabitants. Some claimed that promoting of the city exclusively through ‘religious’ or ‘Christian’ terms was ‘backward’ and did not fit into a ‘modern world’, while others were skeptical about the ‘eventization’ of the sacred. The various discourses and reactions expressed by the WYD’s different actors and observers revealed the complex mechanisms and the variety of forces behind religious heritage formation processes locally, nationally and globally.