'Unpredictable' pope worries security team

By Victor L. Simpson

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, March 20 2013 10:55 p.m. MDT

Pope Francis celebrates his installation Mass in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Tuesday, March 19, 2013.

Andrew Medichini, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

VATICAN CITY — Forgive Pope Francis' security team for looking a bit nervous.

One pope was shot in St. Peter's Square while riding in an open vehicle. Another was tackled by a woman with mental problems in St. Peter's Basilica. So in the early days of Francis' pontificate, as the pope delights the flock by wading into crowds and pressing the flesh, it's only natural that chief Vatican cop Domenico Giani seems on edge.

Just consider some of Francis' acts of papal outreach, which have all made for a refreshing change from the reserved style of his predecessor Benedict XVI, but present a huge headache for a security detail attached to one of the planet's most high-profile people.

The day after his election, Francis eschewed the Vatican's armored limousine and traveled through the chaotic streets of Rome in an ordinary car to pick up his things at a downtown hotel.

At his first Sunday Mass as pontiff, Francis caused a stir by mingling with bystanders at a Vatican gate, shaking hands and even allowing himself to be grabbed by the shoulder, all while people jostled to get closer.

Then on inauguration day, Francis stood for nearly 30 minutes Tuesday in an open vehicle that circled the vast square, kissing babies handed up to him and at one point jumping out to bless and kiss a disabled man in the crowd.

It's not for nothing that Francis has quickly been dubbed the "unpredictable" pope. And for a bodyguard, unpredictable means trouble.

Giani looked particularly worried by the crowd that gathered after the Sunday Mass. La Stampa newspaper quoted an aide at the scene as saying that things "better get back to normal or we're in trouble."

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said last week that the Vatican was well aware of Francis' informal and open style and that "proper security measures" would be taken, even if that hasn't happened immediately.

"There are a lot of nut cases out there," said another Vatican official, who requested anonymity as he is not authorized to discuss security.

"But you can be sure that the security issues are being examined."

Even Francis' habit of constantly running late can't make his bodyguards happy, since they're used to carefully choreographed and timed events. After Mass on Sunday, it seemed as if one of the monsignors was begging Francis to hurry up, as he nervously looked at his watch — but the pope kept diving into the crowd.

Get The Deseret News Everywhere

Subscribe

Mobile

RSS