The security operation Italy is undertaking for the Pope’s funeral outstrips anything it has ever had to deal with before. In fact, Rome’s chief of security said that a similar operation would usually take about six months to a year to plan. The zone around the Vatican, the area around St. Peter’s Basilica and St. Peter’s Square as well as the avenue that leads there, will be crammed with about 300,000 people.
Ensuring their safety and that of the millions of others who have converged on Rome is a prime concern.
Forty thousand people have been deployed to try to keep them and Rome’s 200 or so high profile guests safe, as Rome’s chief of police Marcello Fulvi explained:
“The security system rotates around two main problems – the first one is the security of all the pilgrims, some four million – and the second one is related to all the foreign authorities who are arriving to attend the funeral.”
The arrival of the US delegation showed just how seriously Italy is taking security. They were surrounded by a swarm of bodyguards.
With three US presidents in Rome, helicopters hovered up above and snipers guarded their every move. . Other world leaders are also now on site. The president of the Philippines arrived earlier today . And Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe defied EU travel sanctions to touch down in the capital this morning Met by police, the dignitaries have been whisked away under armed escort.
Thousands of police are guarding high profile targets, like embassies, government offices and religious buildings. Flights over central Rome have been banned.
With the sheer number of people cramming into the city, Italy is doing its upmost to leave nothing down to chance.