John L. Allen Jr. August 20, 2017
Explaining papal calm on security, plus a note on the convert debate.
In the wake of the latest spike in violence across Europe, the Vatican says it's not taking extra security precautions, in part because safeguards were already "very strong." Popes often feel a greater degree of calm about their safety than other public figures, because, let's face it, from their point of view, they've got the ultimate safety net.
Europe is again reeling from violence, as incidents in Barcelona and Cambrils in Spain on Thursday marked the sixth and seventh times, respectively, in just over a year that a vehicle has been used by Islamic jihadists to inflict casualties on a European city.
Meanwhile, a stabbing spree in Finland on Friday left two people dead. Police say they now see it as a terrorist attack, and have arrested an 18-year-old Moroccan asylum-seeker and four others so far. The incident prompted increased vigilance at airports and train stations, and a heightened police presence in places where people congregate.
Though one prays it won’t happen, by the time this column appears, there may be other attacks to report.
Vatican City, of course, is also a European venue where lots of people congregate, and to be blunt, it’s probably a small miracle that something similarly appalling hasn’t happened there. For a jihadist, after all, it’s more or less the brass ring - a towering symbol of both Christianity and Western civilization, and the home of the most recognizable Christian leader on the planet.
I reached out to Vatican spokesperson Paloma García Ovejero on Friday, who told me the Vatican is not taking any extra security precautions in light of the week’s events, in part because “we don’t have any evidence” of a specific threat. “We haven’t increased measures of security, because here, the level of vigilance was already very strong,” García Ovejero said. “St. Peter’s is always protected, and the Via della Conciliazione [the broad avenue leading up the square] remains closed to traffic.”
“In other words, we’re keeping the same alert level,” she said.