With the Pope’s visit pronounced an unparalleled success, the Minister of Internal Administration has delivered a timely press release to security forces, thanking them for their “unparalleled” level of professionalism.
For those watching the events of the last few days, it was clearly at attempt to make up for a damning communiqué issued last Friday by Professional Guards Association (APG) decrying the ‘inhuman conditions’ extended to hundreds of professionals drafted in to ensure public safety.
Some, said APG, were lodged in pavilions with “no access to sanitary installations” and forced to eat ‘scraps’ left over from other people’s meals.
Four days on makeshift mattresses on the floor with no sheets or blankets left APG “profoundly perplexed and indignant”.
The situation was further inflamed by comments by the Minister of Internal Administration that “naturally, the ideal situation would have been to put them all up in 5-star hotels”, but there were simply no hotel spaces available.
This was a “provisory situation, extraordinary for a unique mission”, she stressed.
The minister’s experiences with the country’s security forces have been marked by controversy.
Earlier this month, 20 members of APG dressed in black turned their backs on her during a speech, as a form of protest over working conditions.
But, for now, Constança Urbano de Sousa’s political thank-you has been accepted without qualification.
Portugal’s security forces: the GNR and PSP between them “contributed decisively to the unquestionable success of the Apostolic Visit of His Holiness the Pope for the occasion of the centenary of the Apparitions of Fátima”, her statement began.
Operation Fátima was “one of the most complex ever realised in Portugal”, it continued, and the “elevated degree of competence of the different structures of the country in terms of security protection and emergency response” indicative of a land that “continues to be considered one of the world’s safest” places.
Indeed, “all the organisations governed by the Ministry for Internal Administration… deserve public gratitude and recognition” – not least the GNR for its “exceptional professionalism” in ensuring the safety of so many thousands of pilgrims who made their way to the Holy Sanctuary on foot, along busy roads.
Border agency SEF too was included in the eulogy for “securing our frontiers and thus contributing to the security of the event”.
No mention was made of Chinese money-launderers caught with half a million euros trying to cross the border to Spain, but the inference was loud and clear: the Papal frontier lockdown ensured that the Pope’s landmark visit to canonise two Shepherd children went without a hitch, and the security forces are to be applauded.
As for the “hordes of Eastern European pickpockets” tipped to arrive ‘disguised as pilgrims’ before borders closed, Portugal’s finest appear to have ensured that these stayed firmly within the confines of their disguises, with no easy opportunities to ply their trade.