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Vatican guards find Pope Francis' openness a handful

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
March 19th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

In the few short days since he has been elected as the leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has expressed an openness and accessibility to the general public that has Vatican security concerned. After his first address from St. Peter's Square this past weekend, many were amazed - and highly concerned with the pope's straightforward demeanor.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "There he was, standing right in front of me reaching out his hand and smiling," Daily Telegraph reporter John Bingham said. "It was incredibly different from any pope that I've ever seen at work before."

The pontiff also darted over barricades and even went out the gate that opens onto a public street. Security officers accompanying him openly expressed their concern over the pope's seeming disregard for safety.

"They really looked like they didn't quite know what to make of the situation," Bingham added. "I think we saw the car moved five times, just as they desperately tried to work out what he was thinking, what he was going to do."

Andreas Widmer, who protected Pope John Paul II as a member of the Swiss Guard in the 1980s, says that this is to be expected. Widmer says that a pope has to balance security considerations against his mission of engaging the public and speaking to Catholic audiences around the world.

"The first priority of the papacy is not security. The first priority of the papacy is his ministry," he said. "Having the pope go in St. Peter's Square and things like that - that's never going to change. That's part and parcel of what he does."

Widmer says that the pope's guards appeared to be well-trained. "They know exactly what they are doing," Widmer said. "It's just like a football team: you know what the moves are, where to go, and what to do."

Widmer sized up the pope's appearance this past Sunday and said "I think you saw a few times in the video yesterday: as things get crazier, they actually get closer to the pope."

A former White House security official says that this bring challenges when insuring his safety.

"It has to be a nightmare for the security people," Joe Hagin, who is now with Command Consulting, says. "Everyone has a different style, and it's security's job to adapt to that style. But I did feel sorry for them."

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Thomas Rosica on Monday expressed confidence in the pope's security team.

"This is something brand new, and they will adapt to that, because they are extremely competent and well-prepared," he said.


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