VATICAN SECURITY PREPARED AND VIGILANT IN FACE OF THREATS
Recently, 450 former Swiss Guards and their family members participated in their 27th general assembly in Soleur, Switzerland. During the gathering, the current Swiss Guard commandant gave a talk in which he said, it is perhaps “only a matter of time” before Rome is hit by a Barcelona-style attack but “the Guards are well prepared to face any threats, notably terrorism.” (photo: http://www.cath.ch)
His words were a clear reference to the latest videos produced by ISIS showing the terrorists destroying churches in the Philipines and ripping up photos of Popes Francis, and Benedict, saying “we are coming to Rome.”
Graf, commandant at the Vatican since 2015, noted that Swiss Guards are not just subjects to be photographed by tourists with their colorful uniforms, swords and halberds. They form a real protective detail that is trained with the most modern techniques because it is always necessary to be ready and able to face attacks such as that in Barcelona.
Swiss Guards are constantly adapting to current challenges. So much so that now the intitial training period for recruits in Switzerland has gone from two to four months and is organized in collaboration with the police of the Canton of Tessin. Subjects such as weapons training and shooting practice, body guard training, fire protection, first aid and juridical questions are part of the program.
In an increadsingly secularized society, the religious and spiritual formation of the guards takes on growing importance, according to the commandant. One could even speak of the “Francis effect,” he said. He expressed his happiness at the priestly and religious vocations that have developed during service in the Swiss Guards. A number of young men who join the guards are seeking an orientation in their lives and do not have only an interest for the military or security aspect. (source: http://www.cath.ch)
Security around the Vatican has been fairly tight for years, going back to the Great Jubilee of 2000. Measures tightened at the start of the Holy Year of Mercy in Dcember 2015 and never relented when it ended last November. In fact, secutiry around Vatican City became noticably stepped up after a series of attacks with vehicles that killed people in Nice, Berlin, London, Stockholm and recently Barcelona.
At the Vatican, there are 110 very well trained Swiss Guards defending the Pope and Vatican City and about the same number of superbly trained gendarmes.
Security measures throughout Italy and at the Vatican include police cars and vans, Italian Army jeeps with soldiers carrying heavy weapons, and untold numbers of plainclothesmen. All of these protect important monuments, churches and embassies, and gathering spots such as Rome’s famed Piazza Navona and Piazza del Popolo.
Cement barriers have been strategically place on such broad avenues like Via della Conciliazione, the street that leads to St. Peter’s Square and Vatican City, an historic street now closed to traffic.
People entering St. Peter’s Square last Sunday for the Angelus had their bags checked, via airport-style security or checks by individual officers. This is also done for the weekly general audiences and for those wishing to enter St. Peter’s Basilica. Visitors to the Vatican Museums go through airport-style security.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, secretary of State, said the ISIS video was worrisome but pointed to the high level of readiness at the Vatican. “Obviously, one cannot help but worry, above all for the senseless hatred that it is.” But he said the Vatican has not added more measures to its notable security forces and preventive measures.