Saturday, December 26, 2009

Cohors Helvetica and a Word about Vatican Security


The enfolding arms of the Bernini colonnades welcome all, into a safe place known as St. Peter's Basilica.

And there at the Papal Masses you have the most colorful military unit in the world, the Swiss Guard. For the most part these guys do fine work and act as an able bulwark in protecting the popes and others.

On the other hand, there is the Corpo della Gendarmeria, whose members are Italian nationals. They are the private security detail of the pope (along with some of the Swiss Guard), who assist at some few other functions as well. Fat with nepotism, they have always been quite definitely in second place. The brass are older men who are wise in the ways of preserving themselves in power and they are most of the names on the Vatican Comitato per La Sicurezza and are the Direzione dei Servizi di Sicurezza e "Protezione Civile".

Everybody has seen the newsreel of the attack on the pope. What is not seen in the video is that after the girl was taken down (and subsequently took down the pope), she then got up ( = got away) and ran down the center aisle through waves of the security cavalcade and only then plowed into the 87-year-old cardinal about half way down the center aisle at which point the Gendarmeria security was (finally) able to stop her (only after she plowed into the cardinal) and carry her out (near the manger scene).

A lack of able security is akin to touching pitch. And this blessed obliviousness of the Gendarmeria has proven dangerous. The careless and carefree bonhomie of the Corpo della Gendarmeria only makes it clear that change needs to be in the air and that the return of the sedia gestatoria, which many are still against, might just be the smartest solution.

16 comments:

  1. They should restore the old Guardia Nobile: illustrious roman princes protect the prince of the apostles. I am grateful that I had for several timmes in the 1950ies the opportunity to see them live carrying out their duties with unique elegance.

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  2. http://costumbrario.blogspot.com/2009/12/alegato-favor-de-la-silla-gestatoria.html

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  3. I had been wondering, as I watched the footage of the incident, where exactly the unfortunate Cardinal came into the picture. Thanks for clarifying that -- and indeed it makes the ineptness of the security folks even more worrying.

    But as for the sedia gestatoria... on the one hand, yes, it would physically place the Pope on a level beyond the reach of rampaging lunatics such as this woman. On the other hand, what would happen to the sedia, and the person on top of it, if somebody tackled one of the bearers and brought them down?

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  4. +JMJ+

    Thanks for the commentary. This look at Vatican security isn't something one can read just anywhere.

    (I think my favourite line is "fat with nepotism.")

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  5. With all the weight of the Sedia and additional people around it to gurad it as in the past, I doubt one of these men could be brought down..They have balance and weight on their side..Perhaps reviving the Noble Guard, say 12 members is a good idea at this point. Utilize them to protect the Sedia, and fufill some other traditional roles that have since been abandoned. Had he been on the Sedia this would not have happened. And we can not look at what might have happened, but what did, twice. This fall could have been much more serious, then how would all those against the Sedia feel? It may not be the safest, but recent events show it is safer than simply walking. I pray our wise Holy Father errs on the side of caution and brings back the Sedia for indoor processions as these.

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  6. Ha ragione la nostra Raffaela:
    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_f7LR4h-3t_M/SzVSqznBBwI/AAAAAAAAA8E/K7wAw8QFcBA/s1600-h/Sedia-11.jpg

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  7. John,
    Indeed from a traditionalist point of view the sedia would be a probable solution. However, vatican security as a whole needs to be reviewed. The guards at the metal detectors are often oblivious to what is going on. Some of them texting on their phones. In an age of rising islamic militancy the vatican really needs to beef up security.

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  8. Margaret of the Sea of GalileeDecember 26, 2009 at 9:26 AM

    Thanks for the info...I was also wondering where the injury to the Cardinal occurred.
    Seemed to me the first on the scene was actually Msgr Guido Marini tho' there was a "suit" on the left but iirc he was a step ahead of the Pope and had to turn round to help, Msgr Georg Ganswein also raced up in seconds (from further back in the Procession)

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  9. Camillo Cibin was unfit for years. He was personal bodyguard to popes until 3 days before he turned 80 in 2006!

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  10. Thanks for this report! I hadn't realized that the woman got away and only then plowed through Cardinal Etchegaray. What a travesty! Having read _Windswept House_, I thought the security of the pope was taken more seriously than this.

    Bring back the Nobile Guard!

    Bring back the sedia gestatoria!

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  11. Don't judge a man by his age, De Valette saved all of Europe from the Turk in his 70's!

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  12. If someone tried again to "greet the Holy Father", as Cardinal Bagnasco puts it, the sedia gestatoria would have offered him little protection if this arrangement is anything to go by.

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  13. The breach of security in questions appears somewhat ironic in light the fact that security checks on those entering Vatican City were increased by orders from the top, some would say to the point of excess. Scholars consulting the Vatican Library and Archives have been especially targeted.

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  14. The security does do a good job protecting themselves however-- this April I took a photograph of one of the police outside of St. Peters, and the man immediately swung around and rushed over to tell me that photographing the police is forbidden. Perhaps the police need to keep a keener eye on things other than cameras!

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  15. The word is that the Pope's attacker was mentally ill. If sin is a leading cause of being mentally ill, this woman was railing against the Vicar of Christ as he represents the Truth and goodness of Jesus which she cannot grasp in her state of mind. Her parallax between how things are in her mind and the way things are in reality are so different that she behaved radically outside of normalcy. Who else would
    attack the Pope?

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