Video: Why WYD? Americans in Rio explain.

U.S. pilgrims in Rio discuss their expectations for World Youth Day 2013.

Video: Homes opened for World Youth Day

Brazilian Catholics renew their faith when they open their homes to volunteers helping to run World Youth Day 2013.

Video: Rio hospital ready for pope

A look at the Franciscan hospital Pope Francis will visit during his trip to Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day.


Video: Brazilians eager for pope’s visit

Catholics in Rio de Janeiro await Pope Francis’s visit for World Youth Day this month and examine the legacy of Blessed John Paul II’s visit to a slum.

Preparing for World Youth Day with Pope Francis

VATICAN CITY — What a difference a year makes.

When the Vatican sponsored a meeting in April 2012 to review what went right and wrong in Madrid at World Youth Day 2011, the purpose was to ensure a smoother experience for the young people who were to have joined Pope Benedict XVI in Rio de Janeiro.

Rio’s gearing up. Young pilgrims from around the world are on the move. But it’s Pope Francis who is preparing to fly down to Brazil to join them.

The popes have changed. The Rio site for the vigil and closing Mass are much bigger than the space in Madrid was. (So many unregistered young people were allowed into the area in Madrid, that thousands of those who were registered were shut out.) Some 7,000 young pilgrims from the United States have registered to attend WYD Rio.

Even though we did this video last year, it shows the kind of planning that went into the Rio event. And the reference to encountering the reality of poverty in the developing world is something to keep in mind when Pope Francis arrives next week. He’s likely to challenge the young people — and the rest of us — to look at how our lifestyles and political choices impact the poor, but also to look at what we can learn from them.

Further details on the cyberdefense of the WYD website

VATICAN CITY — The U.S. Servant Sister who masterminded the defense of the World Youth Day website from a major cyberattack last summer has provided more details.

As noted Tuesday, news reports re-visited the attempt to hack the WYD Madrid site after the computer security company Imperva released a report, “Anatomy of an Anonymous Attack,” outlining what the company said it has learned about the hacking activities of the group that calls itself “Anonymous.” The report didn’t mention World Youth Day or the Vatican, but The New York Times reported that it confirmed “the Vatican” or, more accurately, World Youth Day, was the target.

Now there may be questions about that.

Servant Sister Kristen Gardner, who handled the massive computer operation for last August’s celebration of World Youth Day, explained in an email what happened. She said she thinks the news reports have gotten some information confused.

Servant Sister Kristen Gardner, in a 2010 photo from Madrid. (CNS/Paul Haring)

“I highly doubt that the Imperva report is about the WYD website,” she wrote.

“Yes, we were aware of the attack. In July we received several threats from Anonymous via YouTube videos. We prepared all the necessary infrastructure to secure the website, removing all possible security holes. During the week of WYD, which is when the DDoS (distributed denial-of-service) attack took place, we were also aware of it, since the website at times was very slow and at other times could not be reached at all. The moments when the site was completely down were usually periods of about 10 minutes maximum.”

Sister Kristen said, “We were able to block the IPs (internet protocols) from which the attack was coming. The day with the most attacks was Thursday, August 18th,” the day Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Madrid.

“Imperva was not hired by WYD, nor did they do anything for us,” she said.

“We were prepared for the attacks,” she said, and especially in the last month before WYD kicked off she and her staff “continued to add extra protections. Thanks to that the hackers were only able to use DDoS tactics and not others. It would have been much worse if they had been able to enter the website and put their own content on it.”

While the cyberattack was not completely successful or destructive, it did create massive headaches.

“The security in the last week made it much, much more difficult to update the website. This was especially so due to the fact that we had a team of 20 volunteers working on the site and we had to daily inform them of the new security measures and the new processes (which took time to be learned) to be followed to update the website.,” she said.

“However, it was worth the work and effort,” Sister Kristen said.

An informal poll on the new WYD logo

You may have heard that the new World Youth Day logo was released last night in Rio de Janiero, where the next big international youth festival will be held next year. Here’s a look at one version of the new logo:

And that prompted the social media desk at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to ask via Twitter what people think of it:

Some replies:

What about you? Add your thoughts in the comments below.


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