GIETRZWAŁD, Poland (ChurchMilitant.com) - As many as 80,000 pilgrims celebrated on Sunday the 140th anniversary of Marian apparitions in Gietrzwałd, Poland.
Massive crowds showed up for the commemorative events at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Gietrzwałd, a minor basilica in northeastern Poland. The ceremonies included Sunday Mass and a procession with the image of Our Lady of Gietrzwałd.
Sunday was also the 50th anniversary of the coronation of the image of Our Lady of Gietrzwałd. Pope St. John Paul II, when he was still Cdl. Karol Wojtyła, participated in the ceremony on September 10, 1967, along with numerous Polish bishops. The sacred image, depicting Mary with the child Jesus, commemorates a series of apparitions outside the village of Gietrzwałd in the year 1877.
Papal Nuncio Abp. Salvatore Pennacchio shared the Pope's message for the faithful during Masses on Sunday.
President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Beata Szydło had written letters to the pilgrims, which were read by the politicians' aides.
In 1877, when the apparitions occurred, Poland was not a nation-state as its territory had been divided among three ruling powers since the 1790s. Much of northeastern Poland, where Gietrzwałd is situated, was under the control of the Prussians who were forcing the German language onto the land's inhabitants. Despite this, the Mother of God spoke in the Polish tongue during the Gietrzwałd apparitions, which provided consolation and encouragement to the people.
There were many apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the span of nearly three months, from June 27 to September 16, 1877. The primary visionaries at Gietrzwałd were Justyna Szafryńska, age 13, and Barbara Samulowska, age 12.
Archbishop Wojciech Polak of Gniezno, head of Poland's bishops, celebrated Sunday's Mass. In his homily, he noted that people need a "uniting and peaceful force" in their lives, seemingly suggesting that this can be found in recourse to the Blessed Mother.
On Saturday, in anticipation of Sunday's commemoration, Abp. Jozef Górzyński of the archdiocese of Warmia, said, "Mary not only calls us to follow God's commandments, Christ's teaching but is also the one who shows us how and gives us the grace." He added, "She first went on this way, and in her life, she fully reveals the way of the perfect disciple of the Lord: she listens to Christ and takes the path of the Gospel."
Poland is a country with a strong Catholic identity. As previously reported, the Polish government declared 2017 a Jubilee Year in honor of a separate Marian image, Our Lady of Częstochowa. There have been countless celebrations this year in Poland, paying homage to Our Lady.