Pope Francis is at risk of assassination from ISIS, a top Iraqi diplomat has warned. Habeeb al Sadr, Iraqi ambassador to the Vatican, said that the terror group had issued “credible threats” to the kill the Pope, just days before he begins a visit to Albania.
The Vatican has responded, however, by insisting that there is no threat to the Pope’s safety, and he will not ride in a bullet-proof Popemobile used by his predecessor Benedict XVI.
A Sadr admitted he had no specific details of the threat to Pope Francis’s life, but he said: “Just put two and two together… They want to kill the Pope.” He also added that the growing threat of extremism meant that the Pope would never be safe anywhere in the world, including on trips to Britain and the US, and even in Rome itself.
Speaking to Italian newspaper La Nazione, he said: “What has been declared by the self-proclaimed Islamic State is clear – they want to kill the Pope. The threats against the Pope are credible.”
He added that although he had no specific evidence, he was convinced there was real danger.
Public statements and crimes against Christianity by ISIS are a fact. Just put two and two together.
“Let me be clear, I am not aware of specific facts or operational projects. But what has been said by the self-declared “Islamic state” terrorists is clear. They want to kill the Pope.
“I think they could try to hit him during his travels or even in Rome, because there are members of ISIS who are not Arabs but also Canadians, Americans, French, British and Italian.
“This gang of criminals does not merely threaten. In Iraq they have violated or destroyed some of the holiest sites of Shia Islam. They have hit places of worship in the Yazidi religion and Christianity. They forced 150,00 Christians to flee Mosul.”
However, the Vatican has played down the threat, with spokesman Father Federico Lombardi telling the Catholic News Agency: “There is nothing serious to this. There is no particular concern in the Vatican. This news has no foundation.”
Pope Francis will briefly visit Albania, which has a mainly Muslim population, for 11 hours this Sunday, to mark the fall of Communism. He will celebrate Mass in a public square named after Mother Teresa, Albania’s most famous Catholic, and call on the country’s Catholic, Orthodox and Muslim populations to live together in harmony.
The Pope is also due to visit Turkey at the end of November, which, although official secular, has a majority Muslim population and a government that is increasingly Islamising the country. It is also next to war-torn Syria, which has becoming a centre for the ISIS terror group.
Popes have used bullet-proof Popemobiles since the assassination attempt on John Paul II in 1981, but Francis has eschewed the thick glass, saying that it keeps him too far from the faithful.