A few days before the opening of the 13th World Youth Day security levels have been raised at Wawel, in the Market Square and the rest of the historic center. But the "peaceful" invasion of the young people is filling the streets with colour. The first vocational stands and “street confessionals” are appearing, ready for the events led by the pontiff. A Taiwanese delegation travels 42 hours to reach the cultural capital of Poland: "exhausting but beautiful".
Krakow (AsiaNews) – Young people from around the world, but also Poland’s security services are expectantly waiting for Pope Francis’ arrival in Krakow. The attacks that have rocked several European cities in recent days - from Nice to Munich - have in fact raised the alert levels in the Polish "cultural capital": movement is restricted in some of the most important points of the city and there are frequent checks on documents and searches.
The most symbolic places in the city are policed, although discreetly. On the roofs surrounding the Bernardine Church, at the foot of the Wawel Castle, snipers are screening locations to ensure the pontiff’s safety. Francis will travel these streets before meeting political leaders and the Polish bishops inside the castle.
The Market Square, built around the beautiful Basilica dedicated to the Virgin Mary - the "Mariacki" - hosts two events that will see the young people gather at sunset to listen to music and meet each other. At this time the city police has divided the square into sectors: movement is free, but security measures are in place in case of emergency. Last night the sudden explosion of a balloon caused a moment of chaos, with the police immediately surrounding the unfortunate group of young people from where the sound originated.
However, the most impressive sight is the queues in front of the great churches of Krakow, composed of young people who want to spend time in devotion, adoration, or confession. In the smaller squares in the center many tents have been set up to house vocational or denominational centers, and several priests have flags on their vestments to indicate the languages in which they are able to hear confessions.
In the church of Saint Florian - where John Paul II was the rector of the university chaplaincy - about a hundred young WYD volunteers are taking turns to ensure 24 hour adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Speaking to AsiaNews a young Pole says: "Adoration is widely practiced here, but to see young people from around the world come together in this moment of recollection moves me very much."
The reference is to the recent episodes of xenophobia and intolerance that have occurred in the country: "We are not and we do not want to be racist or violent - Piotr continues - but neither should we deny the emergence of a negative populism which then leads to moments of confrontation within communities. I’m not just talking about refugees or Muslims, they are just the tip of the iceberg, but also with other European peoples with whom Poland has historically had problems. " In this sense, he concludes, "the World Youth Day is a blessing. Even the presence of Pope Francis: we show how we, the new generations have the power to leave the past behind".
Teresa Wang came along with an "informal delegation" of ten other young people from the Rosary Cathedral in Kaohsiung, the second largest city in Taiwan. With the terrorism alert in Munich, problems with the European Union entry, security barriers and controls at the John Paul II airport in Krakow, it took them 42 hours to get here: "An exhausting journey - she says - but beautiful. We are ready to show our love for Pope Francis once more at this meeting. But above all, we hope to meet many young people, especially from mainland China, in order to continue the sharing our experiences during the coming year. " (VFP)