Saturday, December 26, 2009

Pope Benedict:: Security issues in St. Peter's Basilica

It wasn't as if this was the first time such a thing had happened. Last year, the security men managed to prevent a deranged woman from reaching the Pope as he processed down the nave of St. Peter's. There must be film and documentation of that first incident. Surely the security teams have studied these with the intention of learning from them and tightening things up so as to avoid future attacks. At least we have every right to expect that they did. And yet another and more serious incident was allowed to occur. It will be the worse for them if it does turn out to have been the same woman this year. The bald fact is that the events of Christmas Eve represent a gross failure on the part of those who operate a security system which is meant to protect the Pope in St. Peter's Basilica.

Everywhere Pope Benedict has been out of the Vatican and Italy, security has been impeccable. All the governments involved made absolutely sure of that, well as far as is possible. The French even had a satellite watching things during his visit to Paris and Lourdes last year. Loyal and loving Catholics throughout the world know this and most of them know how much it cost, and yet this latest incident was allowed to happen in the Vatican, in the Pope's own home. We should be ashamed.

No wonder such Catholics are united (for once) in demanding that something more be done to ensure the safety of their Holy Father. In general it seems that although some would like a return of the 'sedia gestatoria', most realise that carrying the Pope aloft would expose him to snipers, and a commenter who said that such a worry in the basilica was over-dramatic is not living in our present world. No, in my view, our Holy Father should remain firmly on the ground. The monarchical symbolism of the former ceremonies, whilst comprehensible and valued in tradition, would be totally against his personality and the spirit of his pontificate. However, he should be closely flanked, as in the past, by the Swiss Guard and the Noble Guard. Unless of course the men in black suits are in mufti, which I doubt. Anyone leaping a barrier is more likely to be deterred by a Swiss Guard doing the job he is vowed to do, that is to defend the Holy Father, first with his pike, and if necessary with his own life. I say the Swiss Guard should be given back their teeth and free exercise of their holy vow. They are not, and should not any longer be merely decorative symbols. (And did you know that the majority of Swiss vocations to the priesthood come from their ranks after they have served their year?

Tomorrow: the peculiar matter of media coverage of Christmas Eve in St. Peter's.


Mark said...

Jane, I agree with you.

I think the Swiss Guard, Italian Gendarme, and others, need to be reminded that St Peter's is Vatican soil. It is a Sovereign state in its own right, and they are protecting the SOVEREIGN Pontiff, and not just some Bishopp...

pelerin said...

I agree the security when the Pope was in Paris and Lourdes last year seemed to be impeccable. I spotted marksmen on many roof tops in Lourdes on his route and there were even a couple of marksmen on the high hill behind the outdoor altar watching his every movement.

The CRS arrived in full force - I counted over twenty vanloads and of course the bullet proof
papamobile was used. It does seem ironic that Pope Benedict was so well protected on these visits and yet can be so vulnerable in St Peter's basilica.

I seem to remember from tv that when the Royal Family go in procession for example up the Mall, the police are all facing the crowds presumably watching every movement. Many years ago they faced the road but I think this was changed after the attempted attack on Princess Anne.Could not the Swiss guard line up down the aisle and face the people thus preventing this sort of incident happening? Surely the pikes would deter even the most deranged from such an act?

Anonymous said...

I disagree, a sniper would take a shot at him on the elevated Altar as well if he got in with a weapon. And a moving target is much harder to hit. The walking thing should go. He has been violently dragged to the marble floor once and this was attempted last year. Beef up the metal detectors and allow the Holy Father to be carried by the Sedia. If you simply allow him to continue walking down in processions surrounded by security then no one will see him at all. As it is people climb chairs, and push and shove to catch a glimpse. And if the faithful can not see him, he may as well not walk and save everyone the job of protecting him. He wants to be seen and the Sedia seems the best route at this point. If he denies it use again because of pressure for him not to, and someone gets to him again I bet many will hold their tongue. The Sedia with tightened security and metal detectors has not been tried yet. Walking has.