“Don’t be discouraged: with a smile and open arms, you proclaim hope and you are a blessing for our one human family,” Pope Francis told hundreds of thousands of young Catholics who gathered near Krakow on Sunday at a Mass closing World Youth Day (WYD).

The Mass was attended by top Polish officials, including President Andrzej Duda and his wife Agata Kornhauser-Duda, Prime Minister Beata Szydlo and her ministers, lower and upper house speakers Marek Kuchcinski and Stanislaw Karczewski, and ruling party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski. The service was also attended by Panama’s President Juan Carlos Varela Rodriguez and his wife, who started their official visit to Poland on Friday.

At the end of the mass the pope announced Panama as the venue of the next WYD in 2019.

God loves us the way we are, the pope stressed in his homily. “As far as Jesus is concerned – as the Gospel shows – no one is unworthy of, or far from, his thoughts. No one is insignificant. He loves all of us with a special love; for him all of us are important: you are important! God counts on you for what you are, not for what you possess. In his eyes the clothes you wear or the kind of cell phone you use are of absolutely no concern. He doesn’t care whether you are stylish or not; he cares about you, just as you are! In his eyes, you are precious, and your value is inestimable,” the pope said.

The pope told the young Catholics that they might be mocked for believing in the power of mercy. “But do not be afraid. Think of the motto of these days: ‘Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy’. People may judge you to be dreamers, because you believe in a new humanity, one that rejects hatred between peoples, one that refuses to see borders as barriers and can cherish its own traditions without being self-centred or small-minded. Don’t be discouraged: with a smile and open arms, you proclaim hope and you are a blessing for our one human family, which here you represent so beautifully!”

The mass ended the official part of World Youth Day that this year was held in and around the southern Polish city of Krakow on July 26-31. (PAP)