Vatican City, Sep 15, 2014 / 08:40 am
There are no plans to increase security for Pope Francis' Sept. 21 trip to Albania despite new reports of a potential threat by Islamic militants, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said Monday.
"All of us are worried about what ISIS is doing," Fr. Lombardi told journalists during a Vatican press briefing Sept. 15 ahead of the Pope's forthcoming trip to the majority Muslim country.
"But if the question is whether we are going to arrange something special to protect the Pope, or to increase the level of protection, I must say: no, we are not doing anything special."
The director of the Holy See Press Office said that, while there was a general concern with regard to ISIS, there was no specific cause at this time to make alterations to the Pope's behavior or schedule for the trip. The Pope plans on riding in the same Jeep used in Saint Peter's Square, the reason being that he preferred to be unhindered.
The remarks come two days after renewed reports of a possible attack against Pope Francis at the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
Habeeb Al Sadr, Iraq's ambassador to the Holy See, told Italian paper Il Messaggaro that he would not "rule out" an attack on the pontiff by the Islamic militant group.
"The Pope is indeed a target," the ambassador told the Italian newspaper, adding that ISIS' strategy is centered on "media hype; it is enough to see the gruesome images of beheadings" to disseminate fear, as well as "to make a sensation."
He added that the analysis, and intelligence indicate the possibility of such an attack. "We know very well how these terrorists think. Their objectives are recognized. I would not exclude that ISIS would arrive to strike him."
Al Sadr noted that he had spoken with the Holy See about the threat. "They well know what the danger of these terrorist groups is. The Vatican supports the Iraqi government in efforts that are in place to stop ISIS."
Responding to Pope Francis' expressed wish to visit with refugees, the ambassador said that he would we welcome to visit Iraq, notwithstanding the potential threat from ISIS.
"We have invited Pope Francis to come to Iraq," he said, adding that it was an "unrealized dream" of John Paul II to visit Ur of the Chaldeans. "It depends on his political will and on his schedule," Al Sadr said, "but we are ready to welcome him as a father."
The Il Messaggero interview comes weeks after a similar report was published by another Italian newspaper. On Aug. 25, Il Tempo published a story alleging a possible threat against Pope Francis by ISIS.
Speaking with CNA on Aug. 26, Fr. Lombardi denied the that there was any "particular concern in the Vatican."