Things are hopping in Rome

UPDATED (go to bottom of entry)

Here is a shot of a guy (27 year old German) trying to jump onto the Holy Father’s jeep as it passes by during a General Audience in the square. (For video for here.)

Just before I came back I had a chat with some Vatican security folks about the difficulties they are experiencing because of the increasingly large crowds coming to see the Holy Father for audiences, recitation of the Angelus, and Masses. 

A while back I found a story which I didn’t post, but it is appropriate now.  If anyone wondered whether the crowds were really increasing.  It was an interview with the commandant of the Swiss Guard (my translation from Italian):

The number of hours of work of the (Swiss) Guards has increased with the election of Benedict XVI…  According to our statistics each Guard assumes about 10 hours of extraordinary duty each month, for a total of about 185 hours.  During the Wednesday general audiences with John Paul II, there were present between 15,000 and 20,000 pilgrims.  Now, there are present between 30,000 and 40,000 faithful.  Consequently we have needed about 20 supplementary Guards in uniform to assure order in St. Peter’s Square.

This dope in the square today has underscored the difficulties faced when trying to secure the Pope’s safety.  This week the challenges in Rome will be HUGE also because President Bush will come to Rome to visit the Holy Father.  There will be massive anti-American demonstrations on the part of the left and anarchist bozos who crawl out of the Cloaca Maxima for these occasions. 

I suspect there is a great deal of pressure on the Pope to decrease his exposure in the Square.

Remember that in Italy these days the Church and the Pope have been under attack.  The left is losing ground with the Italian people. Let us not forget that before the huge success of "Family Day" in May the new President of the Italian Bishops Conference (CEI), Archbp. Bagnasco of Genoa, was sent death threats.  During the meeting of the CEI in Rome a couple weeks ago, he had to travel in a secure perimeter.  The "anti-family" legislation (read: "pro-homosexual") that has been introduced has met with serious opposition from the Church and Catholic lay groups, and they are I think gaining ground. 

Now that the old Christian Democrat Party is defunct and not serving as weak-kneed compromising filter between the Church and the people, the left-wing is becoming increasingly agitated.  As happened in the 80’s there could eventually fragment off of the left, with anarchists and the radical homosexualists, a seriously violent faction.

Today’s incident should remind us that there is a social context to these images and news stories.  This is important because what happens with the Church in Italy, and in St. Peter’s Square, can actually have ripple effects through the rest of the Catholic world.  Events like this can subtly change things like timing and language.

UPDATE (16:55 CET):

I have been getting calls and SMSs.  One of the Swiss Guards on the security detail who brought this guy down to the cobblestones was injured and hospitalized. 

I am told this was an attack and not just an enthusiastic pilgrim or someone seeking his few minutes of fame.  The reason for the attack is unclear.

Meanwhile, on TGCOM it is reported that the Holy See says: "Nessun attentato, voleva solo attirare l’attenzione su di sé … No attack, he only wanted to get himself some attention".  Fr. Lombardi, papal spokesman, said that he was "squilibrato", "mentally unbalanced" and psychiatric specialists were brought in.

UPDATE (17:25 CET):

There is another video available.  You can clearly see that one of the Vatican gendarmes saw there was a problem with this guy, who was several layers of people away from the barrier.  The gendarme was lined up at the barrier directly across from the guy when he jumped.  We can surmise the guy had been shouting something other than "Viva il Papa!" before he jumped.  What he must have been shouting was bad enough to have attracted the serious focus of that gendarme.

 UPDATE (17:35 CET):

Apparently the guy was a 27 year old German.  The Holy See, via Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, is saying that this was not an attack, but that the fellow was mentally unbalanced. 

On the other hand, I must point out, you can see on the videos that it took several men to get this guy to the ground.  Also, one of the non-uniformed Swiss went to the hospital.  What might this guy have done had he reached the Pope?  Would it have looked more like an attack then?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. zathar says:

    Thanks for the update, Fr.Z.

    BTW, all of a sudden your site keeps making my browser crash. Did you change something?

  2. First off, I love the anti-spam word: I’m not impatient.
    Anyways, wouldn’t you say only 20 extra uniformed guards for an increase of anywhere between 10 000 and 25 000 pilgrims is a little thinly stretched??

  3. Vincent Uher says:

    It seems to me that the Holy Father needs more Guards — both temporal and spiritual.

    Paging St. Michael the Archangel …

    Pray for the Pope !

  4. swmichigancatholic says:

    I’ve been in crowds for both PJP2 and PBXVI, and the ones for Pope Benedict are larger, but they’re also different. They’re more enthusiastic or “forward.” By that I mean more willing to climb on each other to go 3-high at the fence. It’s a bit intimidating when they climb behind you and lean over you as the pope’s car approaches. Many are young too. I didn’t see that kind of behavior at that level for PJP2 on any of the 5 occasions when I saw him.
    I’m wondering if the composition of the crowd has changed re age, reason for being there, nationality and so on.

  5. Fabrizio says:


    as far as I can tell, they’re younger, more enthusiastic for that reason, but also more interested in what he actually says. They’re from all backgrounds and countries, as was with JPII, but I think more young people with a western background are slowly but surely joining the papal crowds.

    If only they could find priests and bishops faithfully repeating and explaining what he says also when they’re not in St. Peter’s square…

  6. Geoffrey says:

    Thank you for keeping us informed, Father! I found news of this here first!

    P.S. No problems with my browser…

  7. milanta says:

    That mentally un ballenced german guy had been sent by Sodano, I think.

  8. Fr. S. Magnuson says:

    Dear Fr. Z.,
    Thank you for the continued updates. I don’t think the number of guards required to subdue that man means he was stable. I’ve helped subdue mental patients; SOP is one person per limb, one for the head, and one for the torso: six people. In fact, I was once condemned to hell by “The Lion of Judah,” as I was kneeling on his neck while he got a shot of “vitamin H” (Haldol). God bless! Keep up the good work.

  9. Fr. S: In fact, I was once condemned to hell by “The Lion of Judah,” as I was kneeling on his neck while he got a shot of “vitamin H” (Haldol).

    Ahhhh…. the good ol’ days.

  10. swmichigancatholic says:

    I see they have more security alking along the side than when I saw him in Nov 2005. *Good*. In this video he’s not touching the crowd so they’re not climbing as bad. And they can tell when someone makes a lunge.

  11. Great moment on the video- the guy is finally taken down right at the feet of one of the uniformed Swiss Guards who, seeing that he has been subdued, calmly turns his attention back to the Pope.

  12. Michael E. Lawrence says:

    Oremus pro pontifice nostro, Benedicto…

  13. Marianne says:

    Father: Thanks for sharing your information with us. You can indeed see the one gendarme directly in front of the man; also the first two security men in suits (walking by the Pope Mobile) hear what the man is shouting, take notice as well, so no time is wasted when the man takes his leap.

    The leap itself is interesting in that he takes a running start, then looks like he has assistance at the barrier to get the lift needed to make it over the barrier. Any mention of an accomplice?

    FYI, I’m having no crahing problems knock on wood!).

  14. Andrew says:

    We need the sedia gestatoria back! With the flambelli too.

  15. Revive the Palatine Guard. Now.

  16. Anthony English says:

    Maybe the man is mentally unbalanced … or maybe he was simply pretending to be but in fact was testing security loopholes. I was surprised at how few security guards were left when most of them were busy dealing with one athletic intruder. If three or four people attempted the same thing from different directions the outcome might not have been so benign.

  17. Maureen says:

    The Swiss Guard Ninja Elite must be deployed! :)

    Heck, I’m surprised the guy wasn’t taken out first by one of Papa’s fanatical teddy bear-wielding female fans. Like that one chick who’s always in the audience pictures trying to get her hand shaken — I’m sure she could have pulled that guy back. And probably made him very sorry, too.

    Seriously, though, kudos for the various Vatican security guys, and for Msgr. Ganswein, for reacting so quickly and decisively.

  18. Chris says:

    Thanks Fr. Z. Now if you find out just what this fellow was shouting could you let us know that too?

    Rather than the mental hospital perhaps Fr. Amorth should have been called upon!

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