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Security level raised in the Vatican but Pope Francis’ Asian pilgrimage goes ahead: “no specific threats”

by Carlo Marroni

The security level in the Vatican and the surrounding areas has been raised in recent days, but there are no specific threats. The security staff of the small papal state, led by the Gendarmerie, continues to follow proven protocols without overlooking any possibility. But at the moment the schedule of Pope Francis has not been changed, starting from his trip to Sri Lanka and the Philippines which begins today in Colombo. “More than increasing the security on the area, already very high, what can make a difference is the intelligence activity. This is where additional efforts are eventually needed,” a source from within the Vatican state told Italy24-Il Sole 24 Ore.

For his trip to the Philippines and Sri Lanka, the pope has ruled out the use of armored vehicles and will be close to his audience as he usually does every Wednesday in St. Peter's square.

“It's not true that the Holy Seat received information of specific threats from security services of other countries,” Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said, commenting media reports of specific warnings received by the Vatican from intelligence services in the United States and Israel.

The Interior ministry in Rome played down the warning: the Italian security system does not have evidence of a real terroristic threat against the Vatican, but no signal is underestimated. Interior minister Angelino Alfano said: “We have further checked the information reported by some media as part of our relations with security authorities of other countries: we have no indication of it. What instead emerges, and is rather evident, is that the Vatican has been often mentioned in messages from the self-proclaimed Caliphate and (the photo of) the black flag atop St. Peter's dome is not a difficult sign to analyze and I don't read it only as symbolic.”

The head of Digos in Rome – the police division that oversees antiterrorism activities – Diego Parente, confirmed that “there is no trace of a specific threat against the Vatican”, despite the state remaining under “maximum alert”. “The service in the Vatican was already high and has been reviewed like the entire security system of the city.”