Pope refuses bullet-proof vest for Christmas address despite ISIS threats
As Christians prepare to celebrate the birth of the prince of peace, the pope is refusing to wear a bulletproof vest for his Christmas address despite warnings by the police that he is an ISIS target. Pope Francis’ spokesman said the pontiff was aware of the threats but was “not afraid” of ‘Daesh’ and refused to have alterations made to his Popemobile to protect himself during this year’s Christmas Day message, according to Express. co.uk.
The radical Islamist terrorist organisation has released a string of videos threatening to launch Parisstyle attacks on Rome, and Francis is considered a specific target as head of the Catholic Church, Express.co.uk reports. Italian media have also given prominence to warnings from ISIS propagandists that they will come to Rome and plant their flag on the top of St Peter’s. The Italian police have advised the Argentine pontiff to boost security in light of the threats, but he has refused to change his relaxed style of leadership. “He is not afraid,” the Vatican spokesman told Express.co.uk. “Pope Francis knows everything [about the threat from ISIS] but he doesn’t want to lose the contact with the people.”
Father Ciro Benedettini told Express.co.uk that the church was aware of ISIS videos, but that “there is no specific threat apart from those coming from the IS or Daesh on the web.
“There are some pictures of the black flag [of ISIS] on St Peter’s. It could be a real threat; maybe it is something just to show how powerful they are and that is really easy to do a post like that.”
When asked how the Vatican was responding to the threat, the deputy media director told Express.co.uk: “There are special measures, you see the presence of the police everywhere, also of the Italian soldiers with guns.
“I don’t think there will be special [security measures] for Christmas apart from what is already there.”
Special measures were implemented last month when Italy responded to the November 13 Paris attacks by deploying 700 extra troops in Rome in addition to the 1,300 already involved in a “safe streets” operation.
The soldiers are deployed notably at the capital’s train stations, underground rail network and airports, as well as at major shopping centres. Media reports have suggested that the number of sites identified as possible targets was increased from 90 to 150. Security around Pope Francis was also tightened, with extra checks on people entering the Vatican and an increased number of bodyguards on duty for his weekly appearance in St Peter’s Square.
Father Benedettini nevertheless stressed that the pontiff has refused completely to wear protective clothing or use an armoured vehicle during his sermons or trips abroad. “It is understandable; in his position he doesn’t want to wear a bulletproof vest – that is ridiculous to go on the altar in one,” Benedettini said.
“It is understandable obviously that the police and the gendarmerie would like the Pope to be more protected, but that is something that can’t be changed.”
Last month, Pope Francis referred to Christmas as a “charade” during a sermon in which he lamented recent terrorist attacks worldwide. Christmas festivities will seem empty in a world that has chosen “war and hate” the pontiff said.
A defiant Pope says it will be business as usual for him this Christmas despite