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).


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: Strong temptations? Defeat them like the Desert Fathers

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The fact that we don’t do what we want but instead do what we hate is a problem as old as our first parents. Yet, we can interpret temptation either as that which is always keeping us away from God or as the very vehicle to grow closer to him.

The Desert Fathers believed it to be a necessary vehicle: “Whoever has not experienced temptation cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven,” St. Anthony of the Desert used to say. They saw the fight against these evil enticements as a step to love God in a deeper way.

Here’s how these radical followers of Christ – who fled to the Egyptian desert during the 3rd to 5th centuries to live a form of daily martyrdom in a land where being a Christian was no longer a risk – survived the strongest enticements of the flesh and the devil, as they sought to live out the Gospel and grow in perfection.

The sayings, teachings, maxims and stories they left behind, compiled and known as the Sayings of the Desert Fathers, show that a combination of three things: self-awareness, prayer and practicality, are key to battling the strongest disordered passions.

Alertness and action

“The early monks understood that temptations often come in the form of thoughts. We become attracted and have fantasies, whether that be in petty things, bodily appetites or social interactions,” explained Father Columba Stewart, O.S.B., expert on early monasticism, scholar and director of the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn.

The first disposition they considered to be key, was self-awareness, “knowing what happens in our minds and hearts… how to recognize [bad thoughts] before we actually do a sinful action,” he said.

After this base, which requires continuous self-examination and attention to the inner impulses of the heart, the importance of prayer and practicality follow.

A hermit of the desert said to a young monk suffering from strong temptations, “This is the way to be strong: when temptations start to speak in your mind do not answer them but get up, pray, do penance, and say, ‘Son of God, have mercy upon me.’”

Prayer is not isolated from action. The hermit tells him to “get up,” “do penance” and “pray.”

Practicality can take on different forms, such as going in the opposite direction of the temptation or seeking help from another, Father Stewart pointed out.

“For example, when you’re angry with someone… thoughts of anger start emerging, and you replay in your imagination what made you angry. Then that turns into a mental video of how you’re going to get revenge. This is when self-awareness comes in and you realize that the thoughts you’re having are inappropriate,” Father Stewart said.

A first practical action would be to step away instead of going to find that person, he continued. “Then to use your mind and imagination to instead remember the times when your relationship [with that person] was better or think about the future and how great it will be when this passes.”

Light overcomes darkness

Also, this “get up” practicality consists in bringing to light one’s sins or temptations to someone else and not fighting alone.

“A common exhortation, attributed to many different monks, was that the Enemy, the devil, rejoices in nothing so much as unmanifested thoughts… A sin which is hidden begins to multiply,” Father Stewart wrote in an article.

He then explained that “If the devil was delighted by a monk’s self-imposed isolation, surely this was because the opposite of isolation, encounter with another, was the way to salvation.”

According to Father Stewart, this understanding led the Fathers to break from “the illusion of self-sufficiency, a pose which encourages self-absorption,” and find spiritual fathers.

“The desert tradition is universally insistent upon the young monk’s need for a discerning elder,” he explained. “The basic insight of the desert… was that one cannot grow towards perfection through isolated, solitary effort: grace is mediated through one’s neighbor, especially one’s abba [spiritual father].”

The way these early hermits fought temptations is one of many treasures that Father Stewart says they left behind. In fact, he encourages readers to look at the Sayings of the Desert Fathers as a source that is still “amazingly relevant.”

“[The Sayings of the Desert Fathers] have been very popular sources of wisdom and inspiration throughout history,” he said. “What sets [them] apart… is that they speak from and to experience rather than text or theory.”

“The tradition of Christian wisdom is great,” he concluded. “People only need to know where to find it.”