Prayer was not the only thing on the minds of hundreds of thousands of young Catholics at the World Youth Day extravaganza in Poland this week: some were also looking for love.
Headlining the event in a village near Krakow, Pope Francis, 79, was an enthusiastic matchmaker, offering his top tips for happy relationships.
“World Youth Day (WYD) can be a bit of a marriage agency,” Sophie Jubin, a 20-year-old Swiss, told AFP as she spent a hot summer night under the stars.
Some 400,000 young Catholics travelled from 187 countries around the world for the event and at least a million more people, many of them Poles, attended a lively papal mass on Sunday.
“You want to find someone with the same values as you,” said Jubin, lamenting that “in our group - it’s funny - there are 250 girls and 50 boys, so lots of girls are disappointed!”
“Finding love isn’t the main topic of World Youth Day, it’s just a little extra, but I’m very happy Aleksandra is here,” Ignacio, a smiling 18-year-old Spaniard, told AFP of his new Polish friend, a 22-year-old student.
“We’re nearly a couple!” he chuckled as Aleksandra chimed in, saying it was “easier to meet someone at World Youth Day because the atmosphere makes you more open.”
“We don’t notice other people’s faults as much because we’re focused on the positive. And we open up to other cultures too!”
They plan to see each other again, this time in Madrid.
The heart of the medieval centre of Krakow was overrun all week by flag-waving groups from China to Samoa and Mexico -- among them, smiling pilgrims strolling hand in hand.
Pope Francis cracked jokes and offered advice for a happy love life earlier in the week to youngsters gathered nightly beneath his window, cranking up the party spirit at an event dubbed “the Catholic Woodstock”.
“Young people often ask me how to create a happy family -- I propose three words. They are: please, sorry and thank you,” the folksy Argentine pontiff said to rapturous applause from a window at the Archbishop’s palace in the old town centre.
“It’s normal for a husband and wife to fight, sometime plates fly... don’t be afraid of these situations,” warned the head of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics.
“But never to sleep without making peace, because a ‘cold war’ the next day is very dangerous,” he said.
“You always have to ask your wife or husband their opinion, and never to impose yours.”