The commander of the Swiss Guards has said the elite group sworn to defend the Vatican and the Pope is prepared for a terrorist attack.
His remarks came as ISIS released a new video showing its fighters ripping up photographs of Pope Francis and threatening to come to Rome.
Christoph Graf told the Swiss Catholic website cath.ch: “Perhaps it is only a question of time before an attack like [Barcelona] happens in Rome. But we are ready also for this.”
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, told reporters he had seen the ISIS video and that “one cannot help but be concerned, especially for the senseless hatred” it represented.
The ISIS video, filmed in the Philippines, where terrorists have been fighting the government for control of the city of Marawi, also shows the destruction the group has wreaked on a Catholic church there. The jihadists brag about how they have freed inmates from a jail, with one addressing the camera saying: “Remember this, you kuffar [non-Muslims] – we will be … in Rome, inshallah [God willing].”
Cardinal Parolin said he did not believe the video prompted extra security measures beyond those that have been in place for some time.
For the Year of Mercy the main road leading to St Peter’s Square was closed to traffic and never re-opened. But while pilgrims approaching St Peter’s Square for Pope Francis’s general audience on Wednesdays and his Angelus address on Sundays have long been subjected to security checks, Italian police seemed to take more time doing the checks after the terrorist attack in Barcelona last month.
Parents dismayed as Catholic school removes statue of Mary
A Catholic school in California has removed several religious statues because of concerns that they would “alienate” prospective students and their parents.
The San Domenico school in San Anselmo took away sculptures including one of Mary holding the Child Jesus. Previously, there had been an annual ceremony at which the children crowned Mary.
The decision has been criticised by parents. A newspaper, Marin Independent Journal, quoted Shannon Fitzpatrick saying in an email to school authorities: “Articulating an inclusive foundation appears to mean letting go of San Domenico’s 167-year tradition as a Dominican Catholic school and being both afraid and ashamed to celebrate one’s heritage and beliefs.”
Many parents, she said, were concerned that the schools had also ceased to offer catechism and preparation for First Communion and Confirmation.
But Amy Skewes-Cox, chair of the board of trustees, said: “If you walk on the campus and the first thing you confront is three or four statues of St Dominic or St Francis, it could be alienating … We didn’t want to further that.”
Priest defies flood with kayak
A priest in Houston, Texas, was applauded by Catholics online after trying to kayak through flood waters to celebrate Mass for stranded faithful.
Fr David Bergeron, a priest at the city’s Catholic Charismatic Centre, said: “I guess this is how the Americas were evangelised, with a canoe – [though] this is a kayak. I hope that can bring a smile to a few people.”
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