This morning the Vatican woke up to the sad news that a member of its police force, Alessandro Benedetti, aged 26, had been gravely wounded by a gunshot wound to the head.
Benedetti was rushed to Santo Spirito Hospital, where he died from the apparent suicide attempt at around 9:00am.
According to a statement from the Holy See’s press office director, Fr. Fredrico Lombardi, “[a] note found on the scene is currently being studied by Vatican magistrates” while they await the results of an autopsy.
Fr. Lombardi also noted that “[Alessandro’s] behavior had not, until now, given cause for concern” and that he had passed “the usual psychological aptitude selection process,” as well as “[the tests] concerning the handling of weapons” this past April.
While Benedetti's death has aroused memories of the 1998 Swiss Guard tragedy—when a corporal in the Swiss Guard killed the Swiss Guard commander and his wife before turning his gun on himself—it seems that the motivations are quite different.
ANSA news is reporting that the Benedetti’s death could be the result of his distress over a recent break-up with his girlfriend. On the other hand, the 1998 murder-suicide was caused, according to the Vatican, by Corporal Cedric Tornay being passed over for a promotion.
Pope Benedict has reportedly learned of Alessandro Benedetti’s death and expressed his great sadness. Fr. Lombardi said that, “He entrusts young Alessandro to the mercy of God, and remains spiritually close to the Benedetti family and to the members of the Gendarmerie."
The Gendarme is a branch of the Vatican’s police force that ensures the safety of Vatican City, but is separate from the famous Swiss Guard, which serves as the Pope’s personal protection force. The Gendarme consists of 130 highly-trained police that are usually drawn from Italian anti-terrorism forces.