Security is ‘tight’ at World Youth Day

Spokesperson: Krakow is safest European city this week

Karna Lozoya

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver sent word back to his staff this week that “security is tight” at the World Youth day events in Krakow, Poland, which culminate Sunday with an outdoor Mass celebrated by Pope Francis.

More than 2.5 million people are expected at the closing event at “Campus Misericordiae” (field of mercy), including some 40,000 Americans, according to the U.S. Embassy and Consulate in Poland. There are some 600 pilgrims from the Archdiocese of Denver.

Campus Misericordiae was designed specifically for the World Youth Day Papal Vigil and Closing Mass, and is located a little more than 9 miles southeast of central Krakow.

Security concerns come on the heels of a recent spate of violence in Europe, including an attack on a Catholic church in northern France, during which two self-proclaimed “soldiers of ISIS” murdered an 84-year-old priest.

In an exclusive interview with ZENIT, Father Pawel Rytel-Andrianik, the spokesman of the Polish bishops’ conference, stated that “there is no signal of any danger in Poland.”

“The Polish government ensures that there are not threats or concerns and that all is expected to take place in a safe and professional manner,” he stated. “The places of celebrations will be some of the safest places in the world at that time.”

Paulina Guzik, the coordinator of the international press office, said in a press briefing Tuesday that “World Youth Day has had the tightest possible security.”

Yago de la Cierva, international media coordinator, added that there are 20,000 agents providing security for the pilgrims.

“They have put in place several additional measures such as police controls at the borders,” he added. “It is possible to say that Krakow is probably the safest city in Europe this week.”

Pilgrims arriving to the major events will find long lines as they pass through a detailed security check, according to the official WYD site.

“The list of objects banned at Błonia and Campus Misericordiae is very similar to the list of items prohibited on an airplane. Just like in the case of an airport security check, any objects from the list will be confiscated before entering the sectors,” explained inspector Mariusz Ciałka, spokesman for the Polish National Police Headquarters.

According to the site, the list includes “all types of weapons, defense sprays, sharp tools, glass containers, alcoholic beverages, drugs, and also substances and liquids of unknown origin.” They added that additional attention will be given to inspecting “everyday objects, which may be dangerous, such as pocket knives or umbrellas with a spike at the top.”

The U.S. embassy in Poland is not currently reporting any active travel alerts or warnings for Poland at this time. An App available for iOS and Android called US Embassy Mobile has up-to-date safety information.

The theme of World Youth Day Krakow 2016 is: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Mt. 5:7).

Resources

The U.S. bishops’ conference website on WYD safety

The U.S. Embassy in Poland WYD page

The U.S. Embassy travel information page for Poland

COMING UP: A caveat on the great Tom Wolfe

Sign up for a digital subscription to Denver Catholic!

When the great Tom Wolfe died on May 14 — he of the white suits, the spats, and the prose style as exuberant as his wardrobe — I, like millions of others, remembered the many moments of pleasure I had gotten from his work.

My Wolfe-addiction began on a cross-country flight in 1979, shortly after The Right Stuff was published. Always an airplane and space nut, I was fascinated by Wolfe’s re-creation of the culture of America’s test pilots and astronauts at the height of the Cold War. And there was that extraordinarily vivid writing. At one point I burst out laughing, scaring the daylights of the elderly lady sitting next to me but not daring to show her the passage — it must have involved Pancho Barnes’ Happy Bottom Riding Club, a saloon outside Edwards Air Force Base — that set me off.

After The Right Stuff got me going on Tom Wolfe, it was impossible to stop. The first half of Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers — Wolfe’s scathing account of a reception thrown for the Black Panthers by Leonard and Felicia Bernstein — remains the quintessential smack-down of political correctness among the 1% cultural elites. From Bauhaus to Our House explains why anyone with an aesthetic sense thinks something is seriously wrong with modernist architecture, and does so in a way that makes you laugh rather than cry.

Then there was Wolfe’s first novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities. One of its chapters, “The Masque of the Red Death,” takes its title from Edgar Allan Poe and with mordant humor dissects the vacuity of Manhattanites consumed (and in some cases destroyed) by their grotesque, over-the-top consumerism. I recently re-read that stunning set-piece and the thought occurred, as it had before, that it was a far more effective polemic against materialism than anything ever issued by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Bonfire was also brilliant in skewering the destructiveness of New York’s race hustlers, the obtuseness of a values-free media, and the fecklessness of too many politicians.

Asked once by monks who run a prestigious prep school what they might do to disabuse parents of the notion that their sons were doomed if they didn’t get into Harvard, Duke, Stanford, and the like, I suggested giving a copy of I Am Charlotte Simmons to the parents of every incoming senior. Wolfe’s fictional tale of life on elite American university campuses in the 21st century is a sometimes-jarring exercise in the social realism practiced (a bit less brutally) by Dickens and Balzac. But Charlotte Simmons, like Wolfe’s other fiction, has a serious moral core and an important cultural message. The young innocent, the brightest girl in town who makes it to an elite university, gets corrupted by stages: and her moral corruption is preceded by intellectual corruption — the class in which she’s taught that there’s really nothing properly called “the truth.”

I do have one post-mortem caveat to register about Tom Wolfe’s oeuvre, which takes me back to The Right Stuff (and while we’re on that subject again, forget the inane movie). The central figure in Wolfe’s tale of aeronautical daring-do is Chuck Yeager, the man who first broke the “sound barrier” in the Bell X-1, and did so with a couple of broken ribs, which he managed in flight with the aid of a sawed-off broom handle. Yeager was an extraordinary figure who never became a national celebrity because of the (absurd) news blackout surrounding the X-1 project, and Wolfe clearly wanted to pay tribute to him as an unsung American hero.

To do so, however, Tom Wolfe seemed to think he needed a foil, and he cast astronaut Gus Grissom in that role: “L’il Gus,” the Hoosier grit lampooned as a bumbler to make Yeager look even better. And that was a grave disservice to the memory of Virgil I. Grissom, who did not mess up the second Mercury space flight (Wolfe’s account notwithstanding), and who gave his life for his country in the launch pad fire that consumed Apollo 1 — which Grissom knew to be a deeply flawed spacecraft and had urged NASA to improve.

So now that Tom Wolfe and Gus Grissom have both crossed what Wolfe once called the Halusian Gulp, I hope these two American patriots are reconciled. Both had the right stuff.