By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Czech authorities are saying that security measures during Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the Czech Republic in September will be much stricter than they were during President Obama’s visit last spring.
CeskeNoviny.cz is reporting that the head of police protection services, Lubomir Kvicala, is expecting much larger crowds and a greater need for security.
“We expect many more people to come to public spaces, therefore the measures will be greater than during President Obama’s visit,“ Kvicala said.
President Obama attended an informal EU-US summit in Prague last April and drew a crowd of 15,000 people.
The Pope, who will be visiting the Czech Republic on September 26-28, is expected to draw 120,000 to the Mass planned for the Brno-Turany airport on Sunday, Sept. 27.
The Pope’s visit to the country will begin on Sept. 26 at the Church of the Virgin Mary Victorious in Prague where the famous statue of known as the “Infant of Prague“ is housed.
From there, he will meet with Czech President Vaclav Klaus and leading Czech politicians and personalities, then celebrate vespers with clergy in Prague’s St. Vitus cathedral.
On Sunday, September 27, he will visit Brno, the centre of Moravia. He will serve a mass at the Brno-Turany airport and bless bells and foundation stones for planned church buildings.
That afternoon he will return to Prague to meet with representatives of the academic community and of the Ecumenical Council of Churches in the Czech Republic.
On Sept. 28, the last day of his visit, which is the feast of the patron saint of Bohemia, St. Wenceslas, the pope will celebrate Mass in Stara Boleslav, north of Prague, where St Wenceslas was martyred in the early 10th century and where a pilgrimage is annually held on September 28.
He will meet with Czech youth just before departing the country for the return trip to Rome.
The Czech Republic is now mostly atheistic, with 59 percent of its 10 million inhabitants claiming to be atheist or agnostic and 27 percent saying they belong to the Roman Catholic Church, two percent belonging to Protestant denominations and 12 percent to “other“ religions.
Benedict XVI is the second Pope to visit the Czech Republic during his pontificate. His predecessor, John Paul II, visited the country three times, in 1990, 1995 and 1997.
This will be Benedict XVI’s 13th official visit abroad.
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