Opinion: In scary times, pope keeps calm in Krakow | Opinion | DW | 31.07.2016
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Opinion: In scary times, pope keeps calm in Krakow

Pope Francis has celebrated his World Youth Day Mass in times of global terrorism. The pontiff's composure helped ensure that the event was a success, DW's Christoph Strack writes from Krakow.

The popemobile that transported Francis to the 31st World Youth Day on Sunday was a VW Golf, barely visible amid the bulky vans that clung to the pontiff's car on all sides, packed with bodyguards sporting sunglasses and somber expressions.

Discussed in the media or whispered in private, many fears preceded the meeting of Catholic youth from across the world. In the past several months, attacks had occurred in Paris, Brussels, Nice, Munich and elsewhere.

Strack

DW's Christoph Strack

Despite it all, in the backseat of his economy car on Sunday, the pope rolled down his window and extended his arm to enjoy the breeze and wave to his supporters.

He had done something very similar on Saturday, making an unscheduled stop at a church en route to addressing more than 1 million people on the open-air Field of Mercy to pray for all victims of terrorism, for an end to terrorism.

'Where is God?'

In Krakow, the pope heard, more immediately than almost any politician of global importance, the devastating testimonies of young people from Syria. He heard their struggles with faith: "Where is God? God, if you exist…" And Francis took a different stance. "We have no desire to conquer hatred with more hatred," he said.

By the end of the pope's visit, he had addressed a crowd of people that could fill a football stadium 20 times over. There were huge numbers of people, quite a few of them too old for a World Youth Day. But, unlike in the recent UEFA European Championship, there was no rioting whatsoever. There was singing, and there was patience. Wow.

The city of Krakow and the surrounding region put itself at the service of this six-day event. Traffic waited for pedestrians and cyclists. And the Polish security services, who were out in force, maintained a generally friendly presence while ensuring the level of vigilance that has been deemed necessary for events of this magnitude.

Shock, panic, the end of our previous way of life, new walls and barriers, too - all that is terrorism's first victory. But, in Krakow, over a million young people wandered the streets. This, too, sends a signal to the world: Pope Francis, the global champion of compassion, the old man in a sea of young believers who are simply not prepared to give in to the fears that terrorism attempts to exploit. So go right ahead and roll down the window.

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