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Heightened security at Vatican

Security was noticeably tighter than usual yesterday for the 12,000 people who attended Pope John Paul II's weekly general audience in St Peter's Square.

Catholic World News reports an increased police presence in the square. It says entrance was limited to three gates, where visitors were subjected to careful scrutiny. Tight security imposed after September 11 2001 was back in full force after its gradual relaxation.

The Italian government is responsible for security in St Peter's Square under the terms of the Lateran accords. It has called for a nationwide increase in security awareness since the Madrid bombings. Some believe that Italy's steady support for US military action against Iraq could make it a prime target for another Al Qaida attack.

A police official said his force is especially mindful of security when Pope John Paul makes a public appearance.

The Vatican appears high on another list of 162 sites that the Italian Government regards as likely terrorist targets. According to security experts in Rome, the dates when terrorist incidents are most likely include 20 March, the anniversary of the US offensive against Iraq, and 12-13 June, the dates of elections in Italy and across Europe.

Heightened security concern at Vatican (Catholic World News 17/3/04)

Four beatifications set for March 21 (Catholic World News 17/3/04)
Christians cultivate hope in the gift of eternal life (Vatican Information Service 17/3/04)
Tight security for Mother Teresa's beatification (CathNews 17/10/03)
Vatican security adviser warns Pope could be Osama bin Laden's next target (CathNews 27/11/01)
Vatican steps up security as war on terrorism continues (CathNews 12/11/01)
Vatican police use priestly disguise to improve security (CathNews 12/10/01)

18 Mar 2004