Thursday, June 07, 2007
Man tries to jump into the Pope's vehicle
What was he thinking? I mean the Wednesday general audience is a weekly opportunity for pilgrims to come up close and…. personal with the pope. But this was clearly too much for Vatican security officials.

The 27-year-old German turned out to be a mentally ill person who wanted to attract attention to himself… He certainly did that – the world’s media jumped on the story just about as fast as the assailant jumped at the pope’s car.

The pontiff’s security detail consists of a number of Swiss guards, dressed in black suits for the occasion, rather than in their historic colourful uniforms, running next to his popemobile pretty much the same way the secret service runs besides the Cadillac of the US president. A wider perimeter, known as “cordone” or cordon, is set by other security officials who are the ones in charge of actually preventing anyone from coming too close to the pope.

They run next to the ‘popemobile’ pretty much the same way the Secret Service runs beside the US President’s Cadillac. A wider security perimeter, known as ‘cordone’ is set by other Vatican security officials who are in charge of preventing people from getting too close to the pope.

Judging from the video the young German man managed to pass through this first outer cordon before being wrestled to the ground by the Swiss Guards.

Nothing really serious happened because the man was unarmed and his intention, according to Vatican officials, was not to harm the pope. Indeed ever since the late John Paul II was shot in that very same square in May 1981, security measures are by far tougher now, and anyone entering St.Peter’s square on the day the pope shows up goes through a strict search, including a metal detector. But there are thousands, if not tens of thousands of pilgrims each week, and there is always a chance someone with ill intentions could slip through security.

This was not the case this time, but I’m quite sure Vatican security officials tonight are asking themselves a simple question: HOW could someone get so close to the man they are assigned to protect?

-- From CNN Rome Bureau Chief Alessio Vinci.
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