Bracing for huge crowds of Christian pilgrims coming to Rome for Holy Week and Holy Year festivities, the Vatican revealed on Saturday that it has set up metal detectors and X-ray machines in the colonnade around St. Peter's Square.
   The new, more stringent security measures are expected to start operating soon, according to Vatican spokesman Fr Ciro Benedettini.
   Italian police had asked to install the security equipment some time ago. The Vatican resisted the idea, but police decided to go ahead and are now installing them, Benedettini said. The entire square is Vatican territory but comes under Italian police control.
   There was no specific security threat, Benedettini said, but tens of thousands of worshippers are expected for Holy Week ceremonies leading up to Easter on 23 April, as well as Holy Year events later in the year involving Pope John Paul II.
   15 airport-style screening devices, including walk-through metal detectors for people and conveyor-belt-style X-ray machines for bags, have been placed between the columns of the colonnade designed by Bernini.
   Until now, pilgrims and tourists who enter the square in front of St. Peter's Basilica for ceremonies or the papal general audiences held outdoors in good weather faced a less sophisticated screening. Police simply waved metal-detecting wands in front of people, bags and packages.
   The Vatican generally shuns excessive shows of security. Vatican officials refused an Indian request for the pope to speak from behind bulletproof glass during a Mass in New Delhi last year, but Israelis insisted that pope be flanked by bulletproof screens at Mass in Galilee last month.


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