All is finally well in computer-land. After several re-boots and some long periods of rest, my computer once again became accessible and life has returned to normal (whatever normal is re: technology). I can now access Windows, my radio editing programs and all my documents (which, of course, I do copy periodically to my external hard drive!).
Until I could use my regular computer, I worked with my Toshiba notebook and was able to re-post on Facebook some of the Vatican’s weekend news stories, given the importance of the Vatican reaction to the Paris terrorist attacks and Pope Francis’ firm words Saturday and also Sunday at the Angelus. I was also able to post some photos from Pza. Farnese in Rome, site of the French embassy, that were taken by a friend and first year seminarian at NAC that showed the floral tribute by Romans to their fallen brothers and sisters in France.
A solemn prayer service organized by the Sant Egidio Community as a “Prayer for Peace in memory of the victims of Paris” will be held this evening at the basilica of Santa Maria di Trastevere. Masses, vigils and prayers services were held throughout Rome over the weekend for the victims of terror and for the nation of France.
How is Italy – how is Rome – reacting to Friday’s attacks in Paris? It is logical to think that the capitals of countries that are part of a coalition to defeat ISIS would be potential intended targets of similar attacks and that, therefore, measures would be taken to reinforce or strengthen security measures already in place. And indeed that is happening in Italy.
Italy and the Vatican began to really beef up a lot of security measure fifteen years ago for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, and those measures have not only remained constant, they are constantly improved and updated, day by day.
In Rome, we saw noticeably increased security over the weekend at the Vatican and throughout the Eternal City at all the highly frequented monuments, well known piazzas, fountains and places of worship. Greater numbers than usual of uniformed police were on duty around St. Peter’s Square for the Pope’s Sunday Angelus. They randomly checked bags and backpacks. Not to mention the increased number of agents not in uniform who are patrolling the city.
Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, in an interview with French Catholic daily La Croix, said, “These events don’t change the Pope’s agenda at all,” Sunday, a visibly moved Francis said at the Angelus that using God’s name to justify violence was “blasphemy.”
According to ANSA news agency, Italian Premier Matteo Renzi on Monday said that bombing campaigns will not suffice to stop Islamist extremist groups like ISIS and called for the international community to adopt a comprehensive political strategy to stop terrorism after Friday’s attacks in Paris. Speaking at the G20 summit in Turkey, Renzi, when asked about France bombing ISIS’s headquarters in Syria Al-Raqqah, said: “A great political strategy is needed.” The Italian PM is set to take part in meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama and leaders from France, Britain and Germany to discuss what to do after Friday’s attacks. Renzi said Monday that his government was ready to discuss increasing funding for security in the 2016 budget bill.
ANSA reported that Italian police on Monday issued an order to patrols in the province of Turin to search for Baptiste Burgy, a 32-year-old French national suspected of being involved in Friday’s terrorist attacks in Paris. Officers on the Turin ring-road and Piedmont highways were told to look for a black Seat Ibiza with Burgy aboard. A previous order had told police to look out for a black Seat car with registration number GUT 18053 that probably crossed the Italian-French border at Ventimiglia.
ANSA also reported that Italy has taken in 139,770 migrants so far this year, down 9% from the same period in 2014 when the total reached 170,100. Sicily is the region hosting the greatest number of migrants, followed by Lombardy and Lazio. Rome is in Lazio.
Talks of closing borders in Europe have increased enormously since Friday. Borders are currently regulated by the 1985 Schengen Agreement. In a nutshell, the Schengen Agreement, a treaty regarding the gradual abolition of border checks in Europe, was signed 30 years by five of the ten member states of the then European Economic Community near the town of Schengen in Luxembourg. The treaty proposed the gradual abolition of border checks at the signatories’ common borders. Five years later, in 1990, this was supplemented by the Schengen Convention that proposed the abolition of internal border controls and a common visa policy. The Schengen Area, rather like a single state for international travel purposes currently consists of 26 European countries covering a population of over 400 million people and an area of 4,312,099 square kilometres (1,664,911 sq mi).
The website of the European Union says: The free movement of persons is a fundamental right guaranteed by the EU to its citizens. It entitles every EU citizen to travel, work and live in any EU country without special formalities. Schengen cooperation enhances this freedom by enabling citizens to cross internal borders without being subjected to border checks. The border-free Schengen Area guarantees free movement to more than 400 million EU citizens, as well as to many non-EU nationals, businessmen, tourists or other persons legally present on the EU territory. (JFL: There are provisions for warranted border checks, stopping individuals, etc.)
Here is the map they show on their website:
As you have seen and heard in news reports the last few days, the terrorists experienced freedom of movement in crossing borders in Europe – southern, eastern and central – although some were already in France and others were French residents. The greatest concern has been the huge flow of refugees into Europe, principally from Syria, because of the ISIS presence and barbarity in the Middle East. It is within these refugee groups that a number of terrorists have hidden themselves – and are possibly doing so as I write these words.
Thus, voices have been rising that ask for borders to be closed again, if not permanently, then for a designated period or set of circumstances.
One site notes: “Schengen is now a core part of EU law and all EU member states without an opt-out which have not already joined the Schengen Area are legally obliged to do so when technical requirements have been met. Several non-EU countries are also included in the area.” However, the EU site states that, “If there is a serious threat to public policy or internal security, a Schengen country may exceptionally temporarily re-introduce border control at its internal borders for, in principle, a limited period of no more than thirty days. If such controls are reintroduced, the other Schengen countries, the European Parliament and the Commission should be informed, as should the public.”
The next days and weeks will be incredibly interesting from so many viewpoints, not least of which may well be the moral obligations vis-à-vis the welcoming of refugees, borders remaining open or not, etc.
WE NEED THE JUBILEE OF MERCY MORE THAN EVER
Fr. Federico Lombardi, head of the Holy See Press Office, issued a statement Saturday noting that, “In these sad days, in which murderous violence has reared its insane, horrible head, many wonder how to respond. Some people are already asking how to live the experience of these last days of waiting before the opening of the Jubilee [of Mercy].”
He answered that we must “be on guard: these murderers, possessed by a senseless hatred, are called ‘terrorists’ precisely because they want to spread terror. If we let ourselves be frightened, they will have already reached their first objective. This, then, is one more reason to resist with determination and courage the temptation to fear.”
“It goes without saying,” Fr. Lombardi went on, “that we must be cautious, and not irresponsible: we must take precautions that are reasonable. Nevertheless, we must go on living by building peace and mutual trust. So I would say that the Jubilee of Mercy shows itself even more necessary. A message of mercy, that love of God which leads to mutual love and reconciliation. This is precisely the answer we must give in times of temptation to mistrust.”
Father Lombardi’s statement pointed out that, “St. John Paul II said that the message of mercy was the great response of God and of believers in the dark and horrible time of the Second World War, which saw massacres carried out by totalitarian regimes, and the spread of hatred among peoples and persons. Today, too, when Pope Francis speaks of a third world war being fought piecemeal, there is need for a message of mercy to make us capable of building bridges, and, in spite of everything, to have the courage of love.”
The head of the press office stated unequivocally that, “this is, therefore, no time to give up the Jubilee, or to be afraid. We need the Jubilee more than ever. We have to live with prudent intelligence, but also with courage and spiritual élan, continuing to look to the future with hope, despite the attacks of hatred. Pope Francis guides us and invites us to trust in the Spirit of the Lord who accompanies us.”
JUBILEE PILGRIMS CAN NOW REGISTER ONLINE
For the first time since Jubilees and Holy Years began in 1300, pilgrims will have to register on the official Vatican Jubilee website in order to enter St. Peter’s Basilica through the Holy Door. This provision was actually announced long before the terror attacks in Paris on November 13 but will be nonetheless an extra layer of security as the faithful will have to undergo airport-style security checks, just as they do now to attend the general audience in St. Peter’s Square.
To participate in the major events of the Jubilee in Rome and to pass through the Holy Door of Saint Peter’s Basilica, it is necessary to register. You can register through the page “Pilgrim Registration” on the official web site: http://www.im.va/content/gdm/en/partecipa/registrazione.html
As the site says: “You can register as an individual pilgrim or as the leader of a group (even families or small groups of friends should register as groups, regardless of how many people they include). Every group leader can register only one group for each event, and can make only one reservation for the passage through the Holy Door of Saint Peter’s Basilica. Please note that registration for one of the events automatically includes access to the Holy Door as part of the event, at the times and in the ways that will be indicated to those registered.” The route to the Holy Door starts at Castel Sant’Angelo, proceeds along Via della Conciliazione to Pius XII Square and finally St. Peter’s Square.
All events are, of course, free. (JFL: watch out for people who, online or otherwise, try to “sell” you a ticket to a papal or Jubilee event)