Polish pilgrims run 1,200 miles to celebrate in Rome

Polish pilgrims who ran to Rome for the April 27, 2014 canonizations of John Paul II and John XXIII pause for lunch after the Mass. Credit: Alan Holdren/CNA.

A group of Polish friends decided to run the whole way to Rome to be present for the canonizations of Saints John Paul II and John XXIII, explaining that their key motivation was to give “thanks.”

“We don't have any (official) group. We are friends,” Tomasz Pietnerzak told CNA April 27, explaining that when another friend suggested “why don't we run to Vatican? I said ok, we run. Let's go!”

Having run a grand total of about 1,200 miles (2,000 kilometers) in order to be present at the Vatican on Divine Mercy Sunday for the papal canonizations, the group consists of 22 men of varying ages, who collectively ran about 185 miles (300 kilometers) a day.

When asked about the primary motivation driving the initiative, Pietnerzak simply stated that they “Run for thanks,” pointing to the word “Thanks” printed on the back of the matching athletic jerseys they wore.

“We run because we can’t do anything else,” the pilgrim explained, emphasizing their gratitude for John Paul II first of all because he is “from Poland,” but also because “he changed world, and Poland.”

“He’s a good man, good man,” they reflected, “he changed Europe.”

Despite the group’s fondness of the sport, they replied with a firm “No, no!” when asked if they would run on the way back, stating that they would most likely return by car – a “come back car,” they jested.

The Mass for the canonization of now-Saints John Paul II and John XXIII was held April 27 at 9:30 a.m. in St. Peter’s Square, where huge numbers of pilgrims gathered, spilling out onto the main road and overflowing into the surrounding squares.

Dubbed by some as the “Mass of the four Popes,” the celebration was presided over by Pope Francis and was concelebrated by retired pontiff Benedict XVI, marking his third public appearance since his resignation rocked the world last February.

His first outing was on July 5th of last summer for the inauguration of the St. Michael Statue in the Vatican City State Gardens, his second being for the Consistory of Cardinals this February.


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