Polish Catholics celebrate centenary of St. John Paul II’s baptism

The font where St. John Paul II was baptized in Wadowice, Poland. Courtesy of the Press Office of the Polish Bishops’ Conference

The Church in Poland today are celebrating the centenary of the baptism of St. John Paul II Saturday.

The future pope was baptised on 20 June 1920, in the Chapel of the Holy Family of the Basilica of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Wadowice, southern Poland.

When he returned to the basilica in 1999, Pope John Paul II said: “With profound veneration I … embrace the threshold of the house of God, the parish church of Wadowice, and in it the baptistery, in which I was joined to Christ and received into the community of his Church.”

The commemoration of St. John Paul II’s baptism comes amid a series of events marking the 100th anniversary of the saint’s birth on 18 May 1920.

The Press Office of the Polish bishops’ conference said that at 8 p.m. local time on Sunday 21 June, a John Paul II memorial concert would be broadcast online.

The concert was originally due to take place at the Lincoln Center in New York, under the patronage of Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki, president of the Polish bishops’ conference, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, and Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz, St. John Paul’s long-time personal secretary.

The coronavirus pandemic forced organizers to change the format of the concert, which will feature more than 30 artists from 10 countries.

The Polish Church is marking the centenary of the birth of the saint, who served as pope from 1978 to 2005, with an international social media campaign, #ThankYouJohnPaul2.

John Paul II’s birth anniversary was marked in Rome 18 May, when Pope Francis celebrated Mass at the saint’s tomb in St. Peter’s Basilica. In his homily, he described his predecessor as a man of prayer who was close to the people and loved justice.

On Monday 15 June, bishops entrusted the Church in Poland to the Virgin Mary as they marked the saint’s birth centenary.

The bishops made the act of entrustment 15 June at the Sanctuary of the Bernardine Fathers in Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, southern Poland, where St. John Paul II was a frequent visitor when he lived nearby.

The act was part of a two-day celebration, which began on Sunday 14 June with Mass at the Sanctuary of St. John Paul II in Kraków, built at the site of stone quarries where the future pope laboured during the Second World War.

After the Mass, the bishops attended a concert with Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, apostolic nuncio to Poland, featuring works by Mozart, Bach, Handel, and Pergolesi.