Tuesday, December 29, 2009

In the Aftermath of the attack on the Pope: Vatican Preoccupations.

Well, at least I know more about what happens when a Pope is attacked on Vatican soil, than I did in the wake of the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II. Surely there's no doubt that the Internet is to be thanked for this. I've no idea of the actual figures, but when the Vatican Press spokesman makes a statement these days, his words reach a vastly wider audience than they did in 1981.

The Holy See Press Officer and his deputy have an unenviably difficult task. In the aftermath of the Christmas Eve attack on the Pope, they are having to deal with two major matters of concern following that event. Firstly there is the question of what the Vatican can and possibly may do, once it has received medical reports on the state of mind of Susanna Maiolo when she lunged at the Pope; secondly Catholics must be assured that something will be done to improve the Pope's security in St. Peter's Basilica. The first matter has now been dealt with and we have been clearly informed of the necessary legal procedures. At first, the Press Office was not clear and we had to interpret a vague statement about being charitable and non-judgmental. Then, yesterday we were assured that there would be a full review of Vatican security. That is all we needed to hear. We did not need to hear stuff about a hundred per cent security being unattainable. We know it is always possible that security systems will be defeated. We live in the same world as Fr. Lombardi. We are not blind, deaf and daft. We are upset that this happened, but the more so because Susanna Maiolo was known to Vatican security forces. How and why could they possibly have allowed her to slip through their net a second time? That is what upsets us and makes us angry. We are not angry with Susanna, but with a system that could have allowed the same assailant such close access to the Holy Father a second time. And in any case it is disingenuous to claim that, 'Well , you know St. Peter's is a place of worship; the people must not be prevented from seeing the Holy Father; he would not want such restrictions'.

The fact remains, that the security forces responsible for the Pope's safety this last two years, did in fact achieve a hundred per cent security for him, and in at least six major basilicas and sites of Christian worship, in the US, France and the Czech Republic, not to mention those in Jerusalem, probably the most difficult of all places to protect him. Of course these forces were more rigorously preventative than the Vatican has so far been.

We will have to wait to see if they tighen up their act. Most of us, although frustrated by increased and time-consuming security at airports, accept these things because we know it is for our own safety. How much more patient would we Catholics be to have to wait another hour or so to get into St. Peter's, if we knew it was for the Pope's safety.

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