If terrorists make good on their threat to attack Pope Francis, the pontiff says he hopes it won’t hurt too much. “I have said to the Lord: take care of me,” the pope said in an interview with La Carcova News, a Buenos Aires news magazine.
“…But if your will is that I should die or that they do something to me, I ask you one favor: that they don’t hurt me. Because I’m a real wimp when it comes to physical pain.”
The story was told in The Tablet, which reiterated the concerns expressed by many regarding Pope Francis’ safety, after ISIS terrorists have sworn to conquer Rome.
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I raised a question regarding the pope’s safety in January, after Pope Francis slammed terrorists in his address on the World Day of Peace. I quoted Pope Francis’ remarks following the vindictive Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris:
“These are dangers which I pointed out in my recent Message for the World Day of Peace, which dealt with the issue of today’s multiple forms of enslavement. All of them are born of a corrupt heart, a heart incapable of recognizing and doing good, of pursuing peace.”
“…I express my hope that religious, political and intellectual leaders, especially those of the Muslim community, will condemn all fundamentalist and extremist interpretations of religion which attempt to justify such acts of violence.”
At that time, I repeated the concerns raised by Israeli state TV that U.S. intelligence services had warned the Vatican could be the next terrorist target.
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USA Today reported that the Italian government is on high alert after the February release of a video showing images of 21 Coptic Christians who were beheaded by the Islamic State, and warning that were “south of Rome” in Libya. (Libya is only about 100 miles from the Italian islands of Sicily and Sardinia.) In their video message, Islamic militants called Italy “the nation signed with the blood of the cross.”
Italian government officials worry that the since the Vatican–the “de facto seat of worldwide Christianity”–is in Rome, so the city could be a target. Since the ISIS warning, about 500 extra troops have been assigned to monitor the streets of Italy’s capital for suspicious activity, and more gendarmes have been stationed near symbolic targets in Rome.
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Meanwhile, Vatican security officials acknowledge that the threat is real, but insist they are prepared for an attack. Domenico Giani, inspector general of the Vatican’s police force, assured Polizia Moderna, the monthly magazine of the Italian state police, that Vatican gendarmes, Swiss Guards and the Italian state police that patrol the perimeter of Vatican City State are always on high alert. And Giani, a former member of the Italian secret service, is in close contact with police agencies in Italy and other countries, including some in Muslim countries.
According to The Catholic Herald, Inspector General Giani, when asked how Pope Francis is living with the threat, responded:
“The Holy Father does not intend to abandon the style of his pontificate, which is based on proximity, that is, on a direct encounter with the greatest number of people possible. Even as pontiff, he has remained a priest who does not want to lose contact with his flock.
“Those of us entrusted with his security must adapt to his style and not the other way around. We must do everything possible so that he can continue to carry out his ministry as he wants and believes is best.”
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Lord Jesus, you founded your Church to carry your message of salvation to the ends of the earth; and You gave us your promise that the Gates of Hell will not prevail against it. Protect Pope Francis, successor of Peter. Keep him safe from physical harm, and guide his actions as he seeks to do your will.