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World Youth Day: Millennials Active in Faith Despite 'Bad Rap,' Using Bible App to Draw Closer Together

World Youth Day
Pilgrims gather for the opening ceremony of World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland July 26, 2016. |

With more than 350,000 pilgrims attending the Roman Catholic World Youth Day week in Krakow, Poland, which is set to run through Sunday, one ministry has developed an app to help those in attendance and the millions watching from home connect and share their faith.

Zach Hunter, manager of product design and development at the American Bible Society, said that World Youth Day, which connects millions of Catholics around the world with the global community, is an opportunity for believers to form bonds and connect with the global Church.

"It also presents an opportunity for participants, whether pilgrims to Krakow or those participating remotely, to deepen their faith and grow closer to Christ," Hunter said in an interview with The Christian Post.

The American Bible Society has developed a new free app for that purpose, called Pilgrimage, which provides a variety of resources, including photos, studies, news updates, and 360-degree videos, for pilgrims to connect with each other.

"At American Bible Society, we are always looking for ways to innovate the delivery of Scripture to Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox Christians and anyone who has an interest in God's Word. The message of the Bible is unchanging, but how we deliver that message is constantly changing," Hunter told CP.

He said that the Pilgrimage app will not only benefit the 40,000 or so Americans attending the events, but the content will also remain available to everyone long after the pilgrims have returned home from Krakow.

"The app provides a platform for people to connect digitally with others they have met on their journey to Krakow, allowing them to engage with Scripture together now and in the future," he added.

Pope Francis has also traveled to Krakow, addressing the hundreds of thousands of young pilgrims around the world with a message of serving others.

The Guardian reported that Francis spoke of the need for a "spirit of readiness to welcome those fleeing from wars and hunger, and solidarity with those deprived of their fundamental rights, including the right to profess one's faith in freedom and safety," in comments addressing the ongoing refugee crisis.

The pontiff also said that everything possible must be done to "alleviate the suffering while tirelessly working with wisdom and constancy for justice and peace."

World Youth Day
Pilgrims confess during World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland July 26, 2016. |

Francis is expected to speak to pilgrims in his nightly appearances at the bishop's palace where he is staying, along with greeting and interacting with the crowds of young people during the celebrations.

The official website for WYD says that the "worldwide encounter with the pope" is held every three years in a different country, with the most recent one held in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil in 2013.

"WYD is open to all young people who want to take part in a festive encounter with their contemporaries centered on Jesus Christ. This event is an opportunity to experience in first person the universality of the Church; to share with the whole world the hope of many young people who want to commit themselves to Christ and others," the website adds.

Hunter said that the Bible is an essential element to how young people engage with the world, and noted that the American Bible Society continues to develop new ways, including with the Pilgrimage app, to allow Catholics and Christians to access the Gospel.

"Every individual active on social media has the ability to speak to a larger crowd in an instant than most people would have in their entire lives before this point in history. It's a unique privilege and opportunity. Obviously, such a platform can be used in a variety of ways, some good, some bad," he continued.

He also insisted that even though millennials often get a "bad rap" as "armchair advocates who hide behind their keyboards but don't actually do anything productive," the truth is that millennials are using technology to build awareness and take action around the issues that matter to them.

"Millennials give away the largest percentage of their income out of any living generation, according to research by The Case Foundation and Achieve," Hunter said.

"We're eager to see technical literacy, care for the poor and suffering, and vibrant personal faith come together in a way that changes the world. American Bible Society is working with partners to create Bible resources to help make this vision a reality."

Paul Jarzembowski, the World Youth Day USA national coordinator, separately shared his hopes that WYD will be the beginning of young people's "next adventure" in their journey of faith, which can be supported by the Pilgrimage app.

"The pilgrims attending World Youth Day in Krakow will have the incredible opportunity to journey, celebrate and pray alongside millions of Catholic young adults from around the world," Jarzembowski added.

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