Vatican security is on high alert as large crowds arrive for Holy Week and Easter, with Italy’s security chief confirming the existence of “looming threats” that warrant extra caution.
Franco Gabrielli, the head of Italian police, assured Pope Francis on Monday that the men and women of the police force “will continue to guarantee the security of this holy see and of your person, and of this great and extraordinary city of Rome, the seat of Christianity, which is targeted by terrorist and jihadist propaganda as a symbol to strike.”
There is nothing to convince us that “the threat has passed,” Gabrielli told the pope. Rather, “the threat is looming, but the men and women of the police will form a bulwark against all the evil that surrounds us,” he said.
Gabrielli was received at the Vatican by the pope, together with the men and women of the police detail whose job it is to protect the pope as well as the pilgrims who visit Vatican City.
Vatican security has been at a very high level for some time, but the police chief confirmed that serious threats make it impossible to loosen security measures at the Vatican, which is preparing to celebrate Holy Week and Easter rituals with a massive presence of the faithful.
For his part, Pope Francis repeatedly thanked the agents who spend their days to ensure his safety and that of the citizens and pilgrims.
Addressing them in the Vatican’s Sala Clementina Monday, the pope also made explicit reference to terrorist threats.
“Sometimes it makes a little sad when I go out and see you working, and I think these people are sacrificing themselves to guard the pope, to guard the people, to make sure there is not some madman trying something, some massacre that would ruin so many families,” Francis said.
The pope thanked the Vatican police, comparing them to “guardian angels,” before distributing medals of Saint Joseph, venerated as the guardian and foster father of Jesus.
“Thanks to your discreet and effective surveillance, the pilgrims who come to visit the tomb of the Apostle Peter from every part of the world have the opportunity to live this important experience of faith with tranquility,” the pope said.
Special security measures will be in place throughout the Italian capital beginning on Thursday and extending through the Easter celebrations.
Demonstrations and marches are banned throughout the entire historic center of the city, along with the Vatican and the Colosseum, where the pope will preside over by the traditional Via Crucis (stations of the cross) on Friday evening.
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