KRAKOW, Poland—Jesus and Pope Francis, in that order, are the principal reasons why millions of young women and men from around the world will descend on Poland next week to participate in the 2016 edition of World Youth Day, according to the results of a recent study.

The massive youth gathering is being staged in Krakow, the city where the church was once led by the future St. John Paul II.

As Pope Francis said in a video message sent out ahead of the July 25-31 encounter, World Youth Day (WYD) will be “a mosaic of different faces, from many races, languages, peoples and cultures, but all united in the name of Jesus, who is the Face of Mercy.”

When WYD gets underway, American, Polish, Italian, Spaniard and French flags will probably dominate most events, as they represent close to 50 percent of the total count of registered pilgrims as of July 20.

Yet the numbers show that Krakow 2016 will be the most international WYD so far, with pilgrims coming from 187 countries, including several that will have representatives for the first time — including Kosovo, Bangladesh, Palestine, Myanmar and South Sudan.

WYD is often described as the Catholic Olympics for being an international, regular yet itinerant event. However, according to a recent study, three out of four participants see this an opportunity to strengthen their faith, and they want to take part in the event aiming to “find myself through Jesus Christ.”

For some of the pilgrims, it’ll be about having the possibility of experiencing being a part of the universal Church: Hundreds are coming from countries where Christians are minority groups and where they experience persecution.

With the help of the papal charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), young women and men from countries such as Iraq, Turkmenistan, South Sudan, Chad, Algeria, Syria, Haiti, Pakistan and Bangladesh will travel to Krakow for the July 25-31 festival.

“Through WYD these young people have the possibility to see that they are not alone in their Faith. And it gives them the momentum and motivation in their own countries to act as missionaries to other young people,” explains Regina Lynch, head of the Project Department at ACN International.

Christians today are the most persecuted religious group in the world, and according to Father Waldemar Cislo, director of ACN Poland, “We cannot remain silent in the face of such suffering and cruelty.”

Among other things, the international charity is producing a musical that will be part of the Youth Festival throughout the week. Titled “Because of My Name,” its aim is to showcase the struggle millions of Christians face around the world for their faith.

“Nowadays young people are being told that faith is not important, that it is not fashionable. Meanwhile in many places around the world Christians are being forced to make a dramatic decision: to renounce Christ and save their life, or remain faithful,” Cilso said.

On Saturday, hundreds of thousands of Evangelical Christians gathered in the National Mall, in Washington DC, to participate in the “Together 16.”

Pope Francis sent an invitation video which in many ways serves as a preview of what WYD will be about: “Young men and women, I know there is something in your heart that moves you. And that makes you restless, because a young person who is not restless is an old person.”

On Tuesday in Krakow, the organizing committee released the results of an online study, responded to by 7,400 young people from 100 countries through Facebook. It not only revealed that an encounter with Christ and the pope are the two main reasons why pilgrims participate in these events: they do so to “renew their faith, ultimately with a hope to improve the world around them.”

According to the study, the majority of respondents perceive the event as one of great personal importance, but also as pastorally significant, with “transformative and long term effects.”

For instance, three out of four respondents said they wanted to “find myself through Jesus Christ,” marking this as the main reason for participating in the July 25-31 event. Over 80 percent of those who answered the survey also said that encountering Jesus was positive for “maturing and becoming a better person,” with other answers being “building a better world,” “being kind and helping the poor,” and “accepting suffering and being happy.”

It’s worth noting however, that a big majority of those who took part in the study already have a strong spiritual life, with 86 percent stating they attend Sunday Mass, 52 carry out volunteer work, and 46 percent are involved in youth groups.

The study was put together by the Spanish company GAD3, which specializes in sociological research and consultancy, and was also responsible for similar surveys done for WYD in Madrid, Spain, in 2011.

Krakow 2016 will mark the 30th anniversary of an appeal of John Paul II, the former archbishop of this Polish city, to all the bishops of the world to hold annual youth gatherings in their diocese. The first international gathering, held every two or three years in different cities around the world, took place in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the former archdiocese of Pope Francis.

When in Krakow, the pope will visit a pediatric hospital, lead a Way of the Cross with young people and hold a prayer vigil the evening before the closing Mass, expected to draw millions.

Francis will also visit Auschwitz, pray at the cell where St. Maximilian Kolbe died 75 years ago after offering his life for another prisoner during World War II. In this German Nazi concentration and extermination camp, Francis will meet with survivors.