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: John Paul II, youth minister

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Pole that he was, Karol Wojtyla had a well-developed sense of historical irony. So from his present position in the Communion of Saints, he might be struck by the ironic fact that the Synod on “Youth, Faith, and Vocational Discernment,” currently underway in Rome, coincides with the 40th anniversary of his election as Pope John Paul II on October 16, 1978. What’s the irony? The irony is that the most successful papal youth minister in modern history, and perhaps all history, was largely ignored in Synod-2018’s working document. And the Synod leadership under Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri seems strangely reluctant to invoke either his teaching or his example.

But let’s get beyond irony. What are some lessons the Synod might draw from John Paul II, pied piper of the young, on this ruby anniversary of his election?

1. The big questions remain the same.

Several bishops at Synod-2018 have remarked that today’s young people are living in a completely different world than when the bishops in question grew up. There’s obviously an element of truth here, but there’s also a confusion between ephemera and the permanent things.

When Cardinal Adam Sapieha assigned young Father Wojtyla to St. Florian’s parish in 1948, in order to start a ministry to the university students who lived nearby, things in Cracow were certainly different than they were when Wojtyla was a student at the Jagiellonian University in 1938-39. In 1948, Poland was in the deep freeze of Stalinism and organized Catholic youth work was banned. The freewheeling social and cultural life in which Wojtyla had reveled before the Nazis shut down the Jagiellonian was no more, and atheistic propaganda was on tap in many classrooms. But Wojtyla knew that the Big Questions that engage young adults — What’s my purpose in life? How do I form lasting friendships? What is noble and what is base? How do I navigate the rocks and shoals of life without making fatal compromises? What makes for true happiness? — are always the same. They always have been, and they always will be.

To tell today’s young adults that they’re completely different is pandering, and it’s a form of disrespect. To help maturing adults ask the big questions and wrestle with the permanent things is to pay them the compliment of taking them seriously. Wojtyla knew that, and so should the bishops of Synod-2018.

2. Walking with young adults should lead somewhere.

Some of the Wojtyla kids from that university ministry at St. Florian’s have become friends of mine, and when I ask them what he was like as a companion, spiritual director, and confessor, they always stress two points: masterful listening that led to penetrating conversations, and an insistence on personal responsibility. As one of them once put it to me, “We’d talk for hours and he’d shed light on a question, but I never heard him say ‘You should do this.’ What he’d always say was, ‘You must choose’.” For Karol Wojtyla, youth minister, gently but persistently compelling serious moral decisions was the real meaning of “accompaniment” (a Synod-2018 buzzword).

3. Heroism is never out of fashion.

When, as pope, John Paul II proposed launching what became World Youth Day, most of the Roman Curia thought he had taken leave of his senses: young adults in the late-20th century just weren’t interested in an international festival involving catechesis, the Way of the Cross, confession, and the Eucharist. John Paul, by contrast, understood that the adventure of leading a life of heroic virtue was just as compelling in late modernity as it had been in his day, and he had confidence that future leaders of the third millennium of Christian history would answer that call to adventure.

That didn’t mean they’d be perfect. But as he said to young people on so many occasions, “Never, ever settle for anything less than the spiritual and moral grandeur that God’s grace makes possible in your life. You’ll fail; we all do. But don’t lower the bar of expectation. Get up, dust yourself off, seek reconciliation. But never, ever settle for anything less than the heroism for which you were born.”

That challenge — that confidence that young adults really yearn to live with an undivided heart — began a renaissance in young adult and campus ministry in the living parts of the world Church. Synod-2018 should ponder this experience and take it very, very seriously.