Vatican security adapting to papal spontaneity

CNS PHOTO | L’OSSERVATORE ROMANO

Pope Francis kisses a disabled man after spotting him in the crowd and having his popemobile stop prior to his March 19 inaugural Mass.

April 1, 2013

Pope Francis’ style of breaking away from his security detail and diving toward the crowds means his protectors are doing quick rewrites of strategy, sometimes on the spot.

Concern and urgency were visibly etched on the face of the head of the Vatican police, Domenico Giani, after the pope celebrated Mass in the Vatican’s Church of St. Anne March 17.

Giani swiftly shouted out fresh commands for undercover guards and police to regroup as Pope Francis made a beeline toward a large cheering crowd pressing against a barricade outside the entrance into Vatican City.

This came after the pope personally greeted, often hugging, each of the approximately 200 members of the congregation right after Mass.

The pope has preferred to walk short distances within Vatican City instead of taking a waiting sedan and has also eschewed a multi-car security escort for longer trips, preferring just one vehicle to get him to his destination.

He had no qualms about stopping the open-air popemobile midride March 20 to climb out, kiss and bless a disabled adult in the throng.

The new papal approach “is perfectly fine; it’s his way of doing things,” Cpl. Urs Breitenmoser of the Swiss Guard told Catholic News Service.

“We are worried if there is more contact with people, because that means there’s a greater possibility something can happen,” he said March 21.

But “we have to fully adapt ourselves” to what the pope wants, he said, and security will in no way try to prevent or dissuade him from greeting people.