Other incidents concerning the Vatican and security

The intrepid Italian journalist Andrea Tornielli has an interesting piece today.  Here is my fast translation of a key bit:

A car driven by an unbalanced young man entered at high velocity into the Vatican bypassing both the check of the Swiss Guard and that of the Gendarmes, and almost hit a priest who was coming out of the ceremony for the 1st Vespers of Advent presided over by the Pope.  Moreover, some days later, a car of the Vatican Gendarmes with a Vatican City State license plate was struck by a few pistol shots while parked near a Rome restaurant on the via Aurelia Antica.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in SESSIUNCULA. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. ljc says:

    John Sonnen has a good post on the topic of the deficient security at the Vatican: http://tinyurl.com/ybc4239

  2. sirlouis says:

    ljc, thanks for that link. I did not know, until I followed the link, that Cardinal Etchegaray was injured when the woman ran down the aisle and plowed into him as she tried to escape. The “security” detail around the Pope apparently was unequal even to restraining the woman after she had pulled the Holy Father down on top of her, had to disentangle herself, and got up and started running. — By the way, the word seems to going around that she only wanted to hug the Pope, and that she has mental problems. Looking at the video I have to think that leap over the barrier and her dive at the Pope don’t suggest to me an attempt to hug him. And I take cum grano salis the “mental problems” explanation. The Vatican had better wake up. This event has shown that it is easy to get at the Pope. There’s danger in allowing your weakness to be exposed. A very public reaction in the way of putting some real teeth in papal security is urgently needed.

  3. catholicmidwest says:

    Agreed, SirLouis.

    Security that can’t stop a medium sized woman cold is not much security at all. She should have found herself face to face with a big bruiser on her way over the fence. This is security? They need to get some real security.

  4. James Locke says:

    maybe I am the only one to see this, but perhaps she did not tackle the pope so much as she grabbed him to embrace him and then was suddenly tackled herself by security at which point she seems to have simply held on to the Pope’s robes as she fell, effectively pulling him down as well. Basically, and easier solution might be to widen the aisle a bit more as that would have prevented her jump.

  5. catholicmidwest says:

    A good thing she didn’t try to “hug” him with a weapon in her hand, yes?

    Let’s not be gullible here, okay? It’s not appropriate. This was a major security breach and it was very dangerous.

  6. Jaybirdnbham says:

    If people go through a metal scanner to get into St. Peter’s when the Holy Father is there, that should take care of the weapons risk. Widening the aisle and having better trained “bouncers” waiting to grab the incoming lunatics would also solve much of the remainder of the problem.

    But the Holy Father is doing the right thing by being as accessible as he is, for the sake of those he is shepherding. In the end, it’s in God’s Hands concerning the Holy Father’s life and death. Sure, take good precautions, but don’t put him in a bubble away from the people.

    Finally, the woman was able to break free and run because the security didn’t want to commit blatant and visible violence on someone in front of thousands of people and television cameras. Maybe they even recognized her as the same woman from the previous year. (which does beg the question… why couldn’t they ban her from entering St. Peter’s any time the Holy Father is there?)

  7. It’s part of a security guard’s job to know how to restrain people without it looking “mean”. Holding the correct joint or bunch of nerves in certain ways is not particularly violent-looking. (I think these are called “comealongs”.)

    I’m sure that they could spend time practicing this sort of thing every week, or even every day. There are surely enough folks out there who can teach them this stuff and keep them in practice.

  8. Jayna says:

    “By the way, the word seems to going around that she only wanted to hug the Pope, and that she has mental problems.”

    Regardless of her intent, it could have just as well been someone else without such benign mental problems. And this was the same woman as last year, wasn’t it? What is it about Christmas that makes her come out of the woodwork? I mean, why did she not attempt to “hug” the Holy Father at any other Mass that the general public was allowed to attend?

  9. JohnMa says:

    I have to disagree with the metal detectors solves the weapons problem comment. A shank can be made from plastic very easily and it is just as lethal as one made from metal. Just ask anyone who has ever worked in a prison.

  10. Adam Welp says:

    Looks like a job for the Secret Service. Maybe the Swiss Guard can spend some time here in the states and learn how it is done!

  11. Emilio III says:

    [Inspector Greenwood to Father Brown]: “Murder is always easy. There can’t possibly be anything more easy than murder. I could murder you at this minute — more easily than I can get a drink in this damned bar. The only difficulty is committing a murder without committing oneself as a murderer. It’s this shyness about owning up to a murder; it’s this silly modesty of murderers about their own masterpieces, that makes the trouble. They will stick to this extraordinary fixed idea of killing people without being found out; and that’s what restrains them, even in a room full of daggers. Otherwise every cutler’s shop would be piled with corpses. And that, by the way explains the one kind of murder that really can’t be prevented. Which is why, of course, we poor bobbies are always blamed for not preventing it. When a madman kills a King or a President, it can’t be prevented. You can’t make a King live in a coal-cellar, or carry about a President in a steel box. Anybody can murder him who doesn’t mind being a murderer. That is where the madman is like the martyr — sort of beyond this world. A real fanatic can always kill anybody he likes.”

    From The Quick One by G.K.Chesterton

    Human nature has not changed in the years since that was written, except possibly our stupidity and arrogance has been so reinforced by both the old and new media that we think that those things can be prevented. I would not want to live under a tyranny so complete that it could actually prevent these things (rather than merely stupid enough to think that it can).

  12. catholicmidwest says:

    I certainly agree with you, Emilio, that murder is always possible, especially when it comes to presidents and leaders. However, it’s fatalism for that leader to run out there in his shirt sleeves and say, “Here I am, come and get me.” Security IS necessary, and security can less the chances of murder.

    One could leave the doors unlocked, but it wouldn’t be a good idea for the opportunity that would appear. Good locks keep people honest. It’s why you lock your door when you leave in the morning. Or don’t you?

  13. robtbrown says:

    I seem to remember reading about a situation during the papacy of Pius IX. A man who was waiting to see the pope had a pistol with the intent of murder. The pope’s aids kept saying that there was a man waiting, but Pius did nothing. Finally, after some time they asked him again, and he said that there was no reason for him to see a dead man. The would be murderer had died (heart attack, I think) while waiting.

  14. Mitchell NY says:

    If someone could get in with a shank made of plastic as opposed to metal then it seems wise to elevete the Holy Father above these possible types of attacks. Use of the Sedia with a ring of security, maybe a restored Noble Guard around the Sedia bearers to prevent anyone from getting close to them would be the best route for now. At the same time people will be able to see the Pope, more than when he walks in Procession and maybe will also quell some of the chair climbing and pushing that goes on in efforts to catch a glimpse of him. Just to calm down some of the overall hysteria may also help security locate suspicious or sudden movements within the crowd since everyone will be a little more complacent in general. They should do something soon to prevent this again, a third time. Widening the aisles will only increase the pushing and chair climbing. Maybe these are indeed signs from above to rethink the abandoned policy of the Sedia through that lens of continuity that Pope Benedict XVI so often prefers to look through. In fact I think the men of the Sedeiari are still on staff, just in case they are needed. Can anyone confirm that? This may not be a perfect solution, short of encasing the Pope in glass, but it seems a step in the right direction for many reasons. I think the Holy Father was visibly shaken afterwards and for all he does for us Catholics and the world I think he should not have to look over his shoulder when walking in Processions. Let’s help take the weight off of him and support the return of the Sedia Gestatoria. He would feel better with our support. GOD Bless The Holy Father and his Pontificate.

  15. j says:

    Sorry, but I think the solution is to rely MORE on the Swiss Guard. They look decorative (alway an advantage), but are the one part of the Vatican “staff” that are universally well-trained, able, friendly, and prepared. Plus, they carry weapons. A quick (and it only takes a second) lowering of the pikes does wonders to ward off a runner. It’s called “going Rennaisance” on …..

  16. JonM says:

    Bringing back the Sedia should be seriously considered, even aside from the reasons of properly honoring the office per se. If a beefed up presence were around the Holy Father, disturbed people like this would pose a far less a threat.

    This was a serious incident as a Cardinal broke his femur (a very damaging, painful injury); this could have easily been Pope Benedict himself.

    While I do not know this for sure, it is my understanding that Secret Service agents who retire do provide advisory services for the Vatican so it is not as if the Swiss Guard is inept or refusing to get advice.

    What I find distubing is that there seem to be a number of ‘crazies’ committing incidents in the Vatican. The Church has many enemies, many enemies who are quite powerful.

  17. catholicmidwest says:

    I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen every time.

  18. robtbrown says:

    I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen every time.
    Comment by catholicmidwest

    Who said it would?

  19. robtbrown says:

    A few weeks ago I saw the Moscow Ballet’s performance of the Nutcracker in Eisenhower Auditorium at Ft Leavenworth. During intermission there were men walking around the lobby dressed in BDU’s and carrying sidearms.

    Now that’s what I call security.

  20. DarkKnight says:

    I would think that those who carry the Sedia should have some sort of body armor. While the chair would solve some problems. It would create others, not the least of which would be elevating the target for a clearer shot or shooting a bearer and having the chair drop on the Holy Father.

Comments are closed.