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.

Souvenirs of WYD

By Sara Angle
One in a series

MADRID — While memories and new friends from across the world will remain as important reminders of pilgrims’ experiences in Madrid, tangible souvenirs were also flying off the shelves at the city’s retailers.

Official merchandise outposts were constantly crowded with pilgrims picking up things like T-Shirts, key chains, coffee mugs, hats, flags, bracelets, scarves, pins and books. Likewise, the souvenir shops were overflowing as WYD attendees rummaged through postcards, magnets, Spanish fans, Spanish flag paraphernalia, castanets and bullfight paraphernalia.

For myself, I bought an official “JMJ” (WYD) scarf and bracelet to add to my collection of bracelets from places I’ve travelled to. The scarf also doubled as a blanket on my chilly flight home from Madrid! I couldn’t resist getting a WYD coffee mug for my dad, (sorry to ruin the surprise, dad!) I also bought some traditional Spanish candies at the supermarket, to share with friends and family.

The tradition of trading things at WYD continued in Madrid, so many pilgrims are going home with an assortment of pins, bracelets, flags and other small trinkets from the week. The best souvenir, though, is the gift of faith that each pilgrim took home.

Sara Angle, 21, is a senior at Villanova University and has written for CNS from Rome and Washington. She enjoys traveling and soaking up the culture of her surroundings, be it through food, fashion or faith, and looks forward to covering WYD for CNS — from the big events to the off-beat adventures. Sara loves reading and writing (but not arithmetic) and dancing like no one is watching. You can also follow her on Twitter @CatholicNewsSvc. She’ll be using the hashtag #SaraInMadrid.

Notes on papal meeting with special nun; behind the scenes at the vigil

MADRID — Pope Benedict XVI’s trip to Spain did focus on young people, including young religious women, but it wasn’t an exclusive focus.

Yesterday afternoon Pope Benedict met briefly with Cistercian Sister Teresita, who just turned 104. But what is even more interesting, she entered the Cistercian cloister on the very day Joseph Ratzinger, the pope, was born: April 16, 1927. With the exception of a few hours during Spain’s Civil War in the 1930s, Sister Teresita has spent the last 84 years inside the convent at Buenafuente del Sistal.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, told reporters that also present at the meeting was a younger consecrated woman, a sister of the Sacred Heart, who retired back to Spain after working with then-Cardinal Ratzinger at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He did not give her name.

On another note, Father Lombardi also spoke a bit about what happened last night, during the storm that hit Cuatro Vientos airfield just after the pope arrived.

Pope leading Eucharistic adoration. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

He said the pope “was very decisive” about remaining with the young people and leading them in Eucharistic adoration even when the sound system failed. Father Lombardi said Msgr. Guido Marini, papal master of ceremonies, went to the pope several times and suggested that the evening be cut short. The pope decided not to read the bulk of the speech he prepared, but he said, “No,” to the idea of leaving.

While the pope was waiting for the worst of the storm to pass and for the sound system to come back on, firefighters lowered a big screen on the altar platform because it was a danger in the wind, Father Lombardi said. But other than that, he said, the pope was safe the whole time.

Father Lombardi also asked people to read the full text of the speech the pope had prepared and “take it as if it were delivered,” especially because the vigil was the World Youth Day appointment where the pope planned to speak about the importance of the vocation of marriage.

Here is the Vatican translation of that section of the prepared text:

During this prayer vigil, I urge you to ask God to help you find your vocation in society and in the Church, and to persevere in that vocation with joy and fidelity. It is a good thing to open our hearts to Christ’s call and to follow with courage and generosity the path he maps out for us.

The Lord calls many people to marriage, in which a man and a woman, in becoming one flesh (cf. Gen 2:24), find fulfillment in a profound life of communion. It is a prospect that is both bright and demanding. It is a project for true love which is daily renewed and deepened by sharing joys and sorrows, one marked by complete self-giving. For this reason, to acknowledge the beauty and goodness of marriage is to realize that only a setting of fidelity and indissolubility, along with openness to God’s gift of life, is adequate to the grandeur and dignity of marital love.

Christ calls others to follow him more closely in the priesthood or in consecrated life. It is hard to put into words the happiness you feel when you know that Jesus seeks you, trusts in you, and with his unmistakable voice also says to you: “Follow me!” (cf. Mk 2:14).

Dear young people, if you wish to discover and to live faithfully the form of life to which the Lord is calling each of you, you must remain in his love as his friends. And how do we preserve friendship except through frequent contact, conversation, being together in good times and bad? Saint Teresa of Jesus used to say that prayer is just such “friendly contact, often spending time alone with the one who we know loves us” (cf. Autobiography, 8).

Madrid 11 comes to a close, but Rio 13 on the horizon

By Sara Angle
One in a series

MADRID — I left the vigil early last night and planned on going to a stadium in west Madrid this morning to watch the closing Mass on their giant screen with many other pilgrims that could not get to Cuatro Vientos, or had left the vigil. Unfortunately, they canceled it! I’ve been watching on TV from my hotel…a better view anyway! I’ve actually heard from some other pilgrims that they are doing the same thing…

Even though we are not at the airbase with the 1 million + people, there is still a sense of community and togetherness I feel by watching the Mass on TV, just as I expect Catholics all over the world who are following WYD from home to feel in communion with those of us here in Madrid.

Yesterday, I finally spotted the symbol of Madrid: The Bear and the Strawberry Tree!

After all, WYD is all about coming together, no matter where you are from or where you are going if your life. We are all one in Christ.

I’m hoping to get into Mass at Almudena Cathedral today…say a prayer for me that I can make it!

Next stop after Madrid? Maybe Rio ; )

Sara Angle, 21, is a senior at Villanova University and has written for CNS from Rome and Washington. She enjoys traveling and soaking up the culture of her surroundings, be it through food, fashion or faith, and looks forward to covering WYD for CNS — from the big events to the off-beat adventures. Sara loves reading and writing (but not arithmetic) and dancing like no one is watching. You can also follow her on Twitter @CatholicNewsSvc. She’ll be using the hashtag #SaraInMadrid.