Vatican City – The Italian police does splendid work in protecting the Vatican from “crazy” terrorists, Pope Francis said Monday.
“These people sacrifice themselves to protect the pope, to protect the people, to make sure some crazy guy does not do something, a massacre, and ruins many families,” Francis said.
His unscripted remarks came at the end of an audience with Italian police officers who act as the pope’s security detail on Vatican and Italian grounds.
“I am grateful for your vigilant presence and for the assistance you give” during religious and public events in St Peter’s Basilica and around the Vatican, he added.
In its propaganda, the Islamic State terrorist group has often singled out the Vatican and Rome as a key target, and security services are on especially high alert ahead of Easter.
Rome police said heavy goods vehicles, public demonstrations and weapons and explosives will be banned in central Rome from Thursday to Easter Monday, April 2.
It also said that a terrorist alert, triggered by an anonymous letter to the Italian embassy in Tunis warning that a Tunisian man was planning an attack on Rome, had passed.
The man, Atef Mathlouthi, told RAI Italian state television from Tunisia that he is “not a terrorist,” and according to Rome police, he “does not at the moment pose a real and present danger.” (dpa/NAN)