The Pope is Coming to Portugal – Is It Safe to Go to Fátima?
Pope Francis is coming to Portugal next weekend, the 12th and 13th of May, to celebrate the centenary of the Fátima apparitions. In addition, during his visit he is to officiate the canonisation of two of the shepherds of Fátima, Jacinta and Francisco, who witnessed the apparitions of Virgin Mary in 1917, along with sister Lúcia. For many Catholics out there, this is a very special weekend.
The borders in Portugal will be closed with pre-Schengen border control from the 10th until the 14th of May for security reasons. Furthermore, there will be a full-scale safety plan including special police, paramedics and one hundred ambulances around Fátima to deal with any problems that may occur.
Still, many people are afraid of going to Fátima this year because they fear it will be an easy and obvious target for a terrorist attack. The reasoning behind this is that if nothing of the kind has happened in Portugal yet, then this should be a very tempting opportunity for ISIS, since millions of innocents, all of them Christian Catholic, are expected to attend the ceremonies.
But we should not think like this. Fear of terrorist attacks should not prevent us from living life normally. We should not be afraid of using public transports or of going to crowded places like festivals or fairs, or of visiting tourist sites and monuments. If we avoid these ordinary things on a daily basis, then they have won. Terror has won.
Living a normal life does not mean we are being brave, or reckless. We all grew up in countries where bad things happen, and unfortunately there is nothing we can do about it. But we can show them we are not afraid to go on living, despite the horrors they are capable of. To instill fear is exactly what they want. What better message to send back than one of love? We are not afraid, we shall continue to live as we have so far. We will go out, commute to work, have fun, travel the world, meet new people, embrace different cultures and traditions. Why not?
There is no way of knowing if or when a terrorist is going to strike again – so, should we stop living altogether out of fear that this might happen? How can we know? It is nearly always unexpected. All it takes is one person deciding to get a bus to hit everyone and everything in front of them. There is nothing we, regular citizens, can actively do to prevent something like that. It can happen everywhere.
Of course, we all find ourselves thinking bad thoughts every now and then when we use the London Underground, or visit Paris, or go to the airport in Brussels, or walk through a Christmas Market in Berlin. Maybe we do think twice before travelling to certain places. Moreover, the extensive coverage given by news broadcasters to acts of terrorism only instills more fear in people around the globe, and gives these terrorists a voice they do not deserve to have. Sadly, as a consequence, the western world has seen an escalation of hate for a religion which is not to blame for the actions of those with extremist, radical beliefs.
It is horrible how terrorists, whoever they are, can hold this power over us: this fear. There will probably be more attacks, but we should not hide out in fear of one. Let us turn the other cheek instead.
This is to say that Pope Francis has never come to Portugal before, and Fátima will only celebrate its centenary once. It is a unique opportunity for people to go there, to take part in the candle procession and the special mass and ceremonies. Millions are willing to take the risk, out of love and out of faith. If you want to go there, do go. Don’t let the fear of a terrorist attack stop you. In any case, security will be tight.
Apply this new logic to your future decisions. We don’t have to live in fear: stay together, stay positive. There are good things in the world, too. Let’s fight for them, because they are worth it.