March 18th, 2013
06:54 PM ET

Pope's openness to keep guards on their toes

By Dugald McConnell and Brian Todd, CNN<

(CNN)–Pope Francis got an enthusiastic reaction when he spontaneously engaged the crowd with handshakes and hugs on Sunday, but that style might conflict with security considerations, experts say.

"There he was, standing right in front of me reaching out his hand and smiling," said John Bingham, a reporter who got to shake the pope's hand. "It was incredibly different from any pope that I've ever seen at work before."

As the pontiff darted over to the barricades and even went out the gate that opens onto a public street, expressions of concern can be seen on the faces of security officers accompanying him.

"They really looked like they didn't quite know what to make of the situation," said Bingham, who covers religion for the Daily Telegraph in the UK. "I think we saw the car moved five times, just as they desperately tried to work out what he was thinking, what he was going to do."

One Italian newspaper quoted a member of the pope's security detail as saying, if the pope he carries on like this, it will "drive us all crazy."

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Andreas Widmer, who protected Pope John Paul II as a member of the Swiss Guard in the 1980s, says a pope has to balance security considerations against his mission of engaging the public and speaking to Catholic audiences around the world.

"The first priority of the papacy is not security. The first priority of the papacy is his ministry," he said. "Having the pope go in St. Peter's Square and things like that - that's never going to change. That's part and parcel of what he does."

But such openness can be difficult for the people guarding him, a former White House security official said.

"It has to be a nightmare for the security people," said Joe Hagin, who is now with Command Consulting. "Everyone has a different style, and it's security's job to adapt to that style. But I did feel sorry for them."

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Thomas Rosica on Monday expressed confidence in the pope's security team.

"This is something brand new, and they will adapt to that, because they are extremely competent and well-prepared," he said.

Widmer said that based on his experience, the guards are well-trained.

"They know exactly what they are doing," said Widmer. "It's just like a football team: you know what the moves are, where to go, and what to do."

For example, in describing the pope's interaction Sunday, he said, "I think you saw a few times in the video yesterday: as things get crazier, they actually get closer to the pope."

The security of the pope is hardly a new concern. The Swiss Guard began protecting the pope in the 1400s, and in the 1200s, a special passage was built from Vatican City to Castel Sant'Angelo, which served several times as an escape route for popes in danger.

But the near-assassination in 1981 of Pope John Paul II, who was shot four times, prompted security improvements such as bulletproof glass on the popemobile used for public appearances.
Still, John Paul reportedly declined to wear bulletproof vests in public, rejecting the idea as an improper way to avoid Christ's will, according to Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, Wisconsin. Morlino told the Madison Capital Times that John Paul said his reasoning was this: "I will not die one minute before Jesus Christ wills it, and I will not live one more minute after Jesus Christ wills it."

When the next pope, Benedict XVI, went to Turkey in 2006, there were conflicting reports over whether he would wear a protective vest. But he, too, had the occasional surprises. In 2011, a boy from the audience ran right up to him (he responded with a quick blessing), and on Christmas Eve in 2009, a woman in St. Peter's Basilica jumped over a barricade, eluded a man in a suit who tried to stop her and rushed at Benedict, causing him to fall.

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Hagin warns that if Pope Francis develops a predictable routine of meeting with the public, it could pose a security challenge.

"If those who would do him harm know that he is holding a Mass somewhere and know that every time he holds the Mass he goes to the crowd afterwards outside, that would be a problem," he said.

But Widmer says he approves of the new pope's style and says it is up to the guards to adapt to it. Pope Francis, he said, clearly wants to be out among the people.

"He doesn't just shake people's hand; he hugs them, he kisses them," he said. "And that is an expression of the papacy that is just amazing."

CNN's Ben Wedeman contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Catholic Church • Pope Francis

soundoff (183 Responses)
  1. Bootyfunk

    look at that scary group of zombies. brains! braaaaaains! ugh.... brains! and the creepy zombie master in the white hat feeding them. i think he's some kind of medieval necromancer. he feeds them flesh in the form of a wafer and then has them drink blood or something. it's all pretty ghoulish. i heard their savior is a super zombie named jesus. be afraid - be very afraid.

    March 19, 2013 at 8:42 am |
  2. The Anti-Christ

    I so love atheists. Looking forward to spending time together with them.

    March 19, 2013 at 8:38 am |
    • Bootyfunk

      if i don't go to hell, i'll miss my friends!

      besides, john lennon and ghandi are in hell and i'd like to talk to them, when they aren't being tortured.

      March 19, 2013 at 8:43 am |
    • sam stone

      Booty: Not to mention Ken Kesey and Jerry Garcia

      March 19, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
  3. Mr.Robert

    In case the Church needs to remove him, it will be easy to hire an attacker because this Pope prefers to be exposed and in close contact with the people.

    March 19, 2013 at 8:10 am |
  4. Science

    The RCC should come clean about the fake origin story might help ? The talking snake thing .

    Skulls of Early Humans Carry Telltale Signs of Inbreeding

    Mar. 18, 2013 — Buried for 100,000 years at Xujiayao in the Nihewan Basin of northern China, the recovered skull pieces of an early human exhibit a now-rare congenital deformation that indicates inbreeding might well have been common among our ancestors, new research from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Washington University in St. Louis suggests


    March 19, 2013 at 5:35 am |
  5. Colin

    There are some pretty fundamental objections to Catholicism that are hard to get around. Now before some believer rants back at me that I am evil, an “angry atheist”, or going to burn for all eternity in hell, please take the time to actually read and cogitate the objections. If you have a disagreement with a point I make, post it. However, if you only object to the fact that I said it, please understand that I do not buy into the whole “it is immoral to be skeptical of the Catholic religion” argument.

    1. At its most fundamental level, Catholicism requires a belief that an all-knowing, all-powerful, immortal being created the entire Universe and its billions of galaxies 13,700,000,000 years ago (the age of the Universe) sat back and waited 10,000,000,000 years for the Earth to form, then waited another 3,700,000,000 years for h.o.mo sapiens to gradually evolve, then, at some point gave them eternal life and sent its son to Earth to talk about sheep and goats in the Middle East.

    While here, this divine visitor exhibits no knowledge of ANYTHING outside of the Iron Age Middle East, including the other continents, 99% of the human race, and the aforementioned galaxies.

    Either that, or it all started 6,000 years ago with one man, one woman and a talking snake. Either way “oh come on” just doesn’t quite capture it.

    2. This ‘all loving’ god spends his time running the Universe and spying on the approximately 7 billion human beings on planet Earth 24 hours a day, seven days a week. He even reads their minds (or “hears their prayers”, if you see any difference) using some kind of magic telepathic powers. He also keeps his telepathic eye on them when they are not praying, so as to know if they think bad thoughts (such as desiring their beautiful neighbor) so he knows whether to reward or punish them after they die.

    3. Having withheld any evidence of his existence, this god will then punish those who doubt him with an eternity burning in hell. I don’t have to kill, I don’t have to steal, I don’t even have to litter. All I have to do is have an honest, reasonable and rational disbelief in the Christian god and he will inflict a grotesque penalty on me a billion times worse than the death penalty – and he loves me.

    4. The above beliefs are based on nothing more than a collection of Bronze and Iron Age Middle Eastern mythology, much of it discredited, that was cobbled together into a book called the “Bible” by people we know virtually nothing about, before the Dark Ages. For example, we know that at least three of the letters of St. Paul are forgeries and at least three more are highly questionable. Further we know that the myth of Jesus saying “Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone” is a complete fabrication, added to the Gospel of “John” about a century later and Matthew and Luke are totally inconsistent of the story of Jesus’ birth. Those stories that comprise Catholic creed and that are not in the Bible, were completely fabricated by early Catholic theologians. For example, the doctrine of the Trinity was completely made up by early Christians. It does not even appear in the Bible.

    5. The stories of Christianity are not even original. They are borrowed directly from earlier mythology from the Middle East. Genesis and Exodus, for example, are clearly based on earlier Babylonian myths such as The Epic of Gilgamesh, and the Jesus story itself is straight from the stories about Apollonius of Tyana, Horus and Dionysus (including the virgin birth, the three wise men, the star in the East, birth at the Winter solstice, a baptism by another prophet, turning water into wine, crucifixion and rising from the dead).

    6. The Bible is also literally infested with contradictions, outdated morality, and open support for the most barbarous acts of cruelty – including genocide, murder, slavery, r.ape and the complete subjugation of women. All of this is due to when and where it was written, the morality of the times and the motives of its authors and compilers. While this may be exculpatory from a literary point of view, it also screams out the fact that it is a pure product of man, bereft of any divine inspiration.

    7. A rejection of the supernatural elements of Catholicism does not require a rejection of its morality. Most atheists and secular humanists share a large amount of the morality taught today by mainstream Christianity. To the extent we reject Catholic morality, it is where it is outdated or mean spirited – such as in the way it seeks to curtail freedoms or oppose the rights of $exual minorities. In most other respects, our basic moral outlook is indistinguishable from that of the liberal Christian – we just don’t need the mother of all carrots and sticks hanging over our head in order to act in a manner that we consider moral.

    Falsely linking morality to a belief in the supernatural is a time-tested “three card trick” religion uses to stop its adherents from asking the hard questions. So is telling them it is “wrong to doubt.” This is probably why there is not one pa.ssage in the Bible in support of intelligence and healthy skepticism, but literally hundreds in support of blind acceptance and blatant gullibility.

    8. We have no idea of who wrote the four Gospels, how credible or trustworthy they were, what ulterior motives they had (other than to promote their religion) or what they based their views on. We know that the traditional story of it being Matthew, Mark, Luke and John is almost certainly wrong. For example, the Gospel of Matthew includes a scene in which Jesus meets Matthew, recounted entirely in the third person!! Nevertheless, we are called upon to accept the most extraordinary claims by these unknown people, who wrote between 35 to 65 years after Christ died and do not even claim to have been witnesses. It is like taking the word of an unknown Branch Davidian about what happened to David Koresh at Waco – who wrote 35 years after the fact and wasn’t there.

    9. The Catholic belief of saints and sainthood borders on lunacy. Dead people reading minds (or “hearing prayers” as they call it) from people on Earth and convincing God to perform miracles. The “miracles” are almost always medical recoveries in circu.mstances where the recovery is perfectly explicable by natural events and where there is social pressure on the church to declare the particular corpse a “saint.” Why is it that God will never cure amputees, or people who have lost eyes, or who have bad scars from burns, or diseases we cannot cure? If we were to draw two lists, those of the ailments God will cure and those he will not, it would coincide perfectly with those diseases medical science or the human body itself can cure and those it cannot. Don’t believe me? Try it.

    10. When backed into a corner, Catholicism admits it requires a “leap of faith” to believe it. However, once one accepts that pure faith is a legitimate reason to believe in something (which it most certainly is not, any more than “faith” that Bigfoot exists is) one has to accept all other gods based on exactly the same reasoning. One cannot be a Catholic based on the “leap of faith” – and then turn around and say those who believe in, for example, the Hindu gods, based on the same leap, got it wrong. In a dark room without features, any gro.ping guess by a blind man at the direction of the door is as valid as the other 359 degrees.

    Geography and birthplace dictates what god(s) one believes in. Every culture that has ever existed has had its own gods and they all seem to favor that particular culture, its hopes, dreams, and prejudices. Do you think they all exist? If not, why only yours?

    Catholic “faith” is not belief in God. It is a mere hope for a god, a wish for a god, no more tangible than the hope for a good future and no more universal than the language you speak or the baseball team you support.

    March 19, 2013 at 5:12 am |
    • albert

      Your are correct about the teachings you refer to as being Catholic, but they are not all Bible teachings. That "bad" people are tormented eternally is not a Bible teaching. God did not tell Adam & Eve that they would burn in hell if they sinned. The Bible does not use the word fire in a literal sense, it is used to depict destruction (what happens to anything when you burn it?) Please do not confuse Catholicism or religion for that matter with what the Bible actually teaches. Yes many religions are rooted in pagan traditions and Greek mythology, but to say that the Bible is based on those things is simply not true. Those teachings were accepted by those claiming to follow the Bible. The trinity, hellfire, the worship of the virgin Mary, Christmas, Easter, etc. are just a few examples. These teachings are nowhere to be found in the Bible

      As a side note, I found your number 2 comment ironic. The worlds governments actually do that today.

      March 19, 2013 at 7:35 am |
    • KV Builder

      Your comments are well thought out. How many of them are yours is hard to determine. I would suggest you expand your mind to include the fact we are not alone in this place. There are other spaceships like earth. Think big. It may change your thought and concept of what is really fact vs fiction.

      March 19, 2013 at 9:04 am |
    • censored in the usa

      You know you not getting graded for this right...gee wizz

      March 19, 2013 at 11:33 am |
  6. Roger Ogilvy Thornhill

    Good for the Pope.

    March 19, 2013 at 3:20 am |
  7. Jim P.

    If you have faith, why would you need guards? You either trust your god or it's all make believe. Isn't a martyr's crown the most desirable reward in Christendom anyway?

    I think you don't really believe anywhere near as much as you claim to.

    March 19, 2013 at 2:25 am |
    • Franny

      Sshhhh....I am having a séance with my spirit box.

      March 19, 2013 at 2:48 am |
    • Ex-Catholic

      Christianity has never taught that God will keep you safe from the actions of other people. Nice attempt at a straw man, though.

      March 19, 2013 at 2:53 am |
    • CJ in Cali

      A martyr is someone who willingly sacrifices themselves for the Cause. Such as the German and Polish priests who willingly went to the camps with the Jews of their communities. Having personal protection against a possible kidnapper or assassin is NOT the same thing as avoiding martyrdom.

      March 19, 2013 at 3:04 am |
  8. Faith

    Its good to be simple physical bodyguard are needed but the supreme one is God

    March 19, 2013 at 12:45 am |
    • Pizza Hut

      The Supreme has pepperoni, sausage, beef, onions, green peppers, mushrooms, cheese. Make it Pizza Hut tonight!

      March 19, 2013 at 1:34 am |
  9. Reality

    Why the fuss over a man no better or worse than any human who ever existed?

    Tis mind boggling that this man and his religion can be brought down to earth in less than ten seconds. With this in mind should not the moderators of this blog and their buddy Stevie P be looking for new jobs?

    Again for the new members:

    To wit:

    Putting the kibosh on all religion in less than ten seconds: Priceless !!!

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.

    • As far as one knows or can tell, there was no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.

    • There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.

    • There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.

    • There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.

    • Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.

    • Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated/reborn Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.

    Added details available upon written request.

    A quick search will put the kibosh on any other groups calling themselves a religion.

    e.g. Taoism

    "The origins of Taoism are unclear. Traditionally, Lao-tzu who lived in the sixth century is regarded as its founder. Its early philosophic foundations and its later beliefs and rituals are two completely different ways of life. Today (1982) Taoism claims 31,286,000 followers.

    Legend says that Lao-tzu was immaculately conceived by a shooting star; carried in his mother's womb for eighty-two years; and born a full grown wise old man. "

    March 19, 2013 at 12:16 am |
    • CJ in Cali

      He is also a ruler of a nation. (True, it's tiny, but still...) Obviously a nation would want to provide personal security for its leader. In that respect, it is no different than the President or the British Prime Minister – both of whom have permanently closed streets outside their official residences. The Pope, because he is also a clergyman, can't be that detached from the people, which makes his security look to other options.

      March 19, 2013 at 2:56 am |
    • J Story

      Your ignorance is only exceeded by your arrogance. *Nothing* is as it seems when one turns a spotlight on it, yet you believe that is only of significance when applied toward religion. Before you go off ranting about what you believe to be false, try finding something that is irrefutably true.

      March 19, 2013 at 3:09 am |
    • Reality

      As requested, more facts:

      What else we do know: (from the fields of astrophysics, nuclear physics, geology and the history of religion)

      1. The Sun will burn out in 3-5 billion years so we have a time frame.

      2. Asteroids continue to circle us in the nearby asteroid belt.

      3. One wayward rock and it is all over in a blast of permanent winter.

      4. There are enough nuclear weapons to do the same job.

      5. Most contemporary NT exegetes do not believe in the Second Coming so apparently there is no concern about JC coming back on an asteroid or cloud of raptors/rapture.

      6. All stars will eventually extinguish as there is a limit to the amount of hydrogen in the universe. When this happens (100 trillion years?), the universe will go dark. If it does not collapse and recycle, the universe will end.

      7. Super, dormant volcanoes off the coast of Africa and under Yellowstone Park could explode catalytically at any time ending life on Earth.

      8.For your $199 check made out National Geographic's Genographic project and a DNA swab:

      "Included in the markers we will test for is a subset that scientists have recently determined to be from our hominin cousins, Neanderthals and the newly discovered Denisovans, who split from our lineage around 500,000 years ago. As modern humans were first migrating out of Africa more than 60,000 years ago, Neanderthals and Denisovans were still alive and well in Eurasia. It seems that our ancestors met, leaving a small genetic trace of these ancient relatives in our DNA. With Geno 2.0, you will learn if you have any Neanderthal or Denisovan DNA in your genome."

      o More details from National Geographic's Genographic project: https://genographic.nationalgeographic.com/

      "Our spe-cies is an African one: Africa is where we first ev-olved, and where we have spent the majority of our time on Earth. The earliest fos-sils of recognizably modern Ho-mo sapiens appear in the fossil record at Omo Kibish in Ethiopia, around 200,000 years ago. Although earlier fossils may be found over the coming years, this is our best understanding of when and approximately where we originated.

      According to the genetic and paleontological record, we only started to leave Africa between 60,000 and 70,000 years ago. What set this in motion is uncertain, but we think it has something to do with major climatic shifts that were happening around that time—a sudden cooling in the Earth’s climate driven by the onset of one of the worst parts of the last Ice Age. This cold snap would have made life difficult for our African ancestors, and the genetic evidence points to a sharp reduction in population size around this time. In fact, the human population likely dropped to fewer than 10,000. We were holding on by a thread.

      Once the climate started to improve, after 70,000 years ago, we came back from this near-extinction event. The population expanded, and some intrepid explorers ventured beyond Africa. The earliest people to colonize the Eurasian landma-ss likely did so across the Bab-al-Mandab Strait separating present-day Yemen from Djibouti. These early beachcombers expanded rapidly along the coast to India, and reached Southeast Asia and Australia by 50,000 years ago. The first great foray of our species beyond Africa had led us all the way across the globe."

      Bottom line: Many of us are part Neanderthal and/or Denisovan and the human, pure or not, apocalypse will start between now and 3-5 billion CE. The universe apocalypse, 100 trillion years?

      March 19, 2013 at 8:36 am |
    • The real Tom

      Nobody is requesting anything from you, you two-bit jack wit.

      March 19, 2013 at 8:38 am |
    • .

      Again, to Reality, to wit: shut up!! Nobody cares what you think. Noooooooooooobody cares.

      March 19, 2013 at 8:39 am |
    • Yep

      Why is this idiot pasting the same twaddle everywhere?

      March 19, 2013 at 8:47 am |
    • Reality

      As we "thu-mp" along with rational thinking, conclusions and reiteration to counter the millennia of false and flawed religious history and theology!!!------––

      March 19, 2013 at 12:06 pm |
  10. vidal808

    Unfortunately security is a necessity since there are so many crazy people out there. I wish him well and pray that his guardian Angel is always on duty and does not take little naps. Just a moment of neglect can be a disaster.

    March 19, 2013 at 12:06 am |
    • AB

      The Pope needs YOU to pray for him? You are amazing!

      March 19, 2013 at 12:14 am |
    • Jennifer

      Yes, AB, everyone needs prayers. The Pope is no different.

      March 19, 2013 at 8:28 am |
    • Mirosal

      Actually, no one needs prayer. According to Christian doctrine, prayer cannot help at all. Therefore it is useless, and a waste of valuable production time.

      March 19, 2013 at 8:34 am |
  11. InMyHappyPlace

    Security will always be concerned in a situation like this. Because either his actions will result in harm to him, which would be catastrophic to the Catholic Church. Or he will prove that all this security is not needed and the people like the Pope and other high ranking officials can actually have contact with the common folk. That would be devastating to the security forces. I think the US Presidents should be more reachable to the people also.

    March 18, 2013 at 11:43 pm |
    • AB

      I couldn't agree more. If George W. would have had less security, thousands would be alive today in Iraq.

      March 18, 2013 at 11:53 pm |
  12. Bilbo

    Why can't those Muslims just get over the whole Crusade thing....there haven't been 'Christian' armies in the Middle East since at least......hmmm...

    March 18, 2013 at 11:17 pm |
  13. Rex

    Its been a while since they have had a pope who could move so fast.

    March 18, 2013 at 11:10 pm |
  14. sybaris

    Why does a Pope need body guards?
    Why doesn't his God protect him?

    Oh right, there is no God

    March 18, 2013 at 10:51 pm |
    • Insight

      He is the God

      March 18, 2013 at 10:59 pm |
    • Say it ain't so

      For the same reason you went to school, read a few books & are still stuck on stupid.

      March 18, 2013 at 11:12 pm |
    • InMyHappyPlace

      @Say it ain't so YOU WIN THE QUOTE OF THE DAY!! I was thinking something quite similar. IT was funnier reading y ours than posting mine.

      March 18, 2013 at 11:37 pm |
  15. SAAB

    if Popes had to be protected in 1200s and 1400s, you can imagine their message of peace !!!

    March 18, 2013 at 9:04 pm |
    • SAAB

      @LIMBO MAN, thanks for making it clear, why Popes needed protection back then, umm from guys like you.

      March 18, 2013 at 9:23 pm |
    • CJ in Cali

      Actually, back then, it was usually protecting them from the armies of Christian nations who sought to control the Pope and therefore the Church. At one point the Swiss Guards took 75% casualties in an attack by an army... I forget if it was French or Spanish.

      March 19, 2013 at 2:59 am |
  16. HotAirAce

    If Pope-A-Dope is a true believer he has nothing to fear.

    March 18, 2013 at 8:31 pm |
  17. Age of Reason

    ..all are wrong! Jesus Christ did not exist!

    March 18, 2013 at 8:15 pm |
    • Tangina Barrons

      All are welcome, all are welcome!

      March 18, 2013 at 8:29 pm |
    • Say it ain't so

      Yeah and the holocaust never happened, we still haven't sent a man to the moon and the world is still flat!

      March 18, 2013 at 11:09 pm |
    • InMyHappyPlace

      Even the Jews acknowledge Jesus existed. They just don't believe he was the Son of God.

      March 18, 2013 at 11:40 pm |
  18. clarity

    The pope that could Tango. Come on, Swiss guard – put your dancin' shoes on.

    March 18, 2013 at 7:49 pm |
    • Meatwad

      Why aren't you dancin' ya'll? This song is the mad beat.

      March 18, 2013 at 8:23 pm |

    I bet I know what he's going to be "open" about....

    March 18, 2013 at 7:27 pm |
    • Ed

      Hence why the guards will be "on their toes"...

      March 18, 2013 at 7:50 pm |
  20. AB

    Why am I already missing Satan?

    March 18, 2013 at 7:21 pm |
    • Akira

      Because he cooks a mean medium-rare steak?

      March 18, 2013 at 8:58 pm |
    • AB

      Nah, he ALWAYS over-cooks the meat. He has a dainty touch with pasta though.

      March 18, 2013 at 9:31 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.