The Vatican says it plans to review its protection procedures in light of the recent breach during this year’s Christmas Eve Mass.
The outer security cordon surrounding the Pontiff is already tight. Those wishing to get close to the head of the world’s 1.1 billion Catholics must pass through strict controls and spot checks. Benedict XVI also has his own personal army made up of a police force and the Vatican’s famous Swiss Guard. Despite that, the church has admitted providing watertight security is almost impossible.
‘‘People want to see him up close and he is pleased to see them too,” the Vatican’s spokesman Reverend Federico Lombardi said. ‘‘A zero risk does not seem realistic in a situation in which there is a direct rapport with the people.’‘
Wednesday’s incident is not the first major security breach. In 2007, a mentally unstable man jumped a barrier, grabbing the back of the pope mobile before being stopped.
The most serious recent attack on a pope came in 1981 when John Paul II was shot and nearly killed in St Peter’s Square by Turkish gunman Mehmet Ali Agca.
Arguably whatever changes are made to security, it will continue to remain a difficult balancing act so long as the Pope wishes to be close to his followers.