Pope re­fuses bul­let-proof vest for Christ­mas ad­dress de­spite ISIS threats

The Star (St. Lucia) - - INTERNATIONAL -

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

ISIS threats

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