Italian counterterrorism forces are taking no chances of an incident for the opening of the holy door of Saint Peter’s Basilica on December 8 and have prohibited the transport of fuel and natural gas in the city, as well as ammunition, weapons, and toxic gases.
The Prefect of Rome, Franco Gabrielli, has ordered restrictive measures in the city aimed at lessening chances of any untoward events, especially surrounding the inauguration of the Jubilee Year on Tuesday. As of 6:00 am Sunday morning until 6:00 pm Wednesday, December 9, the transport of weapons, ammunition, explosives, and toxic gases is prohibited within Rome precincts, as well as the lighting of fireworks.
On December 8 itself, Rome will become a no-fly zone from 6:00 am until 10:00 pm, with a complete ban on flights in Rome airspace. On this day no one may transport fuels, methane or natural gas within Rome city limits.
Gabrielli said that the establishment of a no-fly zone, which includes small aircraft and drones, is not meant to inconvenience anyone, but simply to allow people to continue their lives peacefully with a greater sense of security.
“The country and Rome are threatened, and no one has ever denied this,” Gabrielli said. “The message to the people is to continue living their lives.”
“I expect that the Islamic communities will assume an unambiguous position without ifs, ands or buts. We expect a cooperative attitude from them,” he said.
Under the label of environmental responsibility, the city has also begun limiting traffic in the city by declaring odd or even license plate days, when half the plates are ineligible for circulation. Police are taking advantage of surveillance to conduct random stops of vehicles and review passengers’ documents.
On Tuesday, December 8, when Catholics celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Pope Francis will officially kick off the Jubilee Year of Mercy by opening the holy door at Saint Peter’s Basilica, a special door in the rear of the church that is ordinarily sealed shut. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI will also reportedly participate in the festivities.
Some 2,000 officers and soldiers from the police and army will be patrolling the streets of the city during these days, an increase of 700 armed personnel.
Gabrielli denies reports that state officials resent the Jubilee Year.
“This jubilee is not a problem for the city,” he said, “and I find it annoying that some claim that we would have rather done without it. I think this is a blasphemy both in the secular and Christian sense.”
“It is an opportunity of redemption for the city,” he said.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome