Security is ‘tight’ at World Youth Day

Spokesperson: Krakow is safest European city this week

Karna Swanson

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: Healing hatred and anger after Charlottesville

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The confrontation in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the nationwide reaction to it are clear signs of the tensions simmering just below the surface of our society. But we know as people of faith that these wounds can be healed if we follow Christ’s example, rather than the path of revenge.

It was with a heavy heart that I learned about the Aug. 12 clashes between white supremacists and counter protesters in Charlottesville that resulted in the injury of around 34 people and the death of Heather Heyer. It was an “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” melee.

These events remind me of Pope Francis’ 2017 World Day of Peace message, in which he pointed out that “Jesus himself lived in violent times. Yet he taught that the true battlefield, where violence and peace meet, is the human heart: for ‘it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come’ (Mk. 7:21).”

What we witnessed in Charlottesville was an outward expression of hundreds of hearts, and as a shepherd of souls, I cannot stand by silently while people allow hatred toward others rule their hearts. Particularly reprehensible were the derogatory words the neo-Nazis and their white supremacist allies shouted toward African Americans, Jews and Latinos. This is not how God sees his children!

Every human being is bestowed from the moment of conception with the dignity of being made in the image and likeness of God, and we are all loved by him, even amid our sin and brokenness. Satan seeks every opportunity to twist these fundamental truths in the hearts of human beings and we can see the devastation it brings throughout history.

It can be tempting to respond to these attacks on our fellow man with violence, just as the members of the Anti-fascist movement (known as “Antifa”) did in Charlottesville. But this is not what Christ taught, since it allows hatred to gain a foothold through a different avenue. It is worth repeating: the human heart is the true battlefield.

Jesus’ response to violence and persecution stands in contrast with the way of hatred and anger. Instead, he taught his disciples to love their enemies (Mt. 5:44) and to turn the other cheek (Mt. 5:39). Christ’s radical answer is only possible because God unconditionally loves every person and is ready to forgive us when we repent. God’s love is the only thing that can cut through the hatred that is bringing people to blows, heal the human heart and form it after his own. As people of faith, we are called to bring the truth of love to these festering wounds so that hearts may be healed by Christ.

Joseph Pearce, the Catholic convert and former white supremacist, is a perfect example of this. In a recent article for the National Catholic Register, he recalls how it was his encounter with the objective truths of the faith that demolished his race-centered identity and seeing his enemies love him when he confronted them with hatred that changed his heart. We must pray for the grace to love as Jesus loves, to love as the Father loves.

“The way out of this deadly spiral,” Pearce says, “is to go beyond the love of neighbor, as necessary as that is, and to begin to love our enemies. This is not simply good for us, freeing us from the bondage of hatred; it is good for our enemies also.”

May all of us follow the great example of Mark Heyer, the father of the woman who was killed after the white supremacist rally. His daughter’s death, Heyer told USA Today, made him think “about what the Lord said on the cross, ‘Forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.’”

Jesus desires that every person have a heart that is whole and free from hatred, anger and pride. He desires to form our hearts, and that only comes about when we are receptive to his unconditional love, for only in receiving his unconditional love will we be able to give it to others. I pray that all the faithful will be instruments of healing for our country by bringing Christ’s forgiveness to their neighbors and their enemies.