June 10, 2008
VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI will play host to US President George W. Bush in an unusual setting in the Vatican gardens when he visits on Friday, spokesman Federico Lombardi said.
The head of the Roman Catholic Church will meet with Bush, who headed to Europe early Monday, in the medieval St John’s Tower which was restored under pope John XXIII in the early 1960s and is reserved for illustrious guests.
The pope usually receives foreign dignitaries in the Apostolic library but protocol there rarely leaves room for spontaneity.
In meeting Bush at Saint John’s Tower the pope wanted to pay back some of the warmth showered on him when they met at the White House on April 16, said Lombardi.
The two leaders will have private talks on the first floor of the tower and take a walk in the gardens before bidding farewell to each other at a statue of the Madonna.
Bush will be in Rome Wednesday afternoon as part of a farewell tour of Europe, which will also take in Slovenia, Germany, Italy, France and Britain.
Bush, whose relations with pope John Paul II were tense because of the US-led invasion of Iraq, feels closer to Benedict XVI who appreciates the president’s religious convictions.
Both men prayed privately in the Oval Office during Benedict’s visit to Washington in April.
The two met at the Vatican in June last year.
June 10, 2008
VATICAN CITY (CNS) – The Vatican has set up two new anti-terrorism units that will work closely with international police experts to prevent possible attacks, the Vatican’s director of security announced.
A “rapid-intervention group” and an “anti-sabotage department” were recently established as subunits of the Vatican’s gendarme corps, Domenico Giani, corps director, told the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano on June 7.
He said the Vatican also has begun closer collaboration with Interpol, the International Criminal Police Organization.
The Vatican and Pope Benedict XVI have been named as potential targets by extremist groups in recent years. Earlier this year, an al-Qaida leader accused the pope of leading an anti-Islam campaign.
Although the Vatican has downplayed the threats, it also has beefed up security, adding metal-detectors for all visitors to St. Peter’s Basilica and attendees at papal events. The gendarme corps also has been deployed at Vatican territories outside Vatican City, in particular at Rome’s patriarchal basilicas.
Giani said the rapid-intervention group would use new channels and resources to identify high-risk situations and prepare immediate action to neutralize possible threats.
The anti-sabotage unit is specially trained to identify and react to suspicious packages or objects, he said. It also has a supplementary role in other investigations, he said.
Giani pointed out that the Vatican stepped up its anti-terrorism measures during Holy Year 2000, when a technologically updated command center was inaugurated. The center runs 24 hours a day, every day of the year, and is connected with a network of surveillance cameras throughout the 109-acre Vatican City.
The gendarme corps, which has about 130 members, works in close collaboration with the Swiss Guards, especially during events involving the pope.
Giani said the new cooperative arrangement with Interpol marked a big step forward for Vatican security, because it gives the Vatican access to a large data bank of suspects, the latest information on criminal or subversive organizations, and information on the latest anti-terrorism operational procedures.