Newly installed Pope Francis has inspired admiration for his humble demeanor and friendly interactions with Catholics gathered to see him, but his personality is giving his security detail a headache, USA Today reports.
Francis has sought impromptu contact with the public at every opportunity, walking through crowds after celebrating Sunday mass and greeting members of the press corps. On Tuesday, he spent 17 minutes driving around St. Peter’s Square in an open-air vehicle stopping to kiss infants or bless people, the article says.
“It’s much harder to protect someone who follows his own script and who loves public contact than it is someone who stays behind the barriers and keeps a certain distance, says Massimo Blanco, president of Italy’s National Association of Public and Private Security Experts in the article.
After the 1981 shooting of John Paul II, papal security became a top priority. At least three other assassination plots were uncovered in various stages since the one targeting John Paul, including one in 2012.
While Vatican officials will not discuss the topic on the record, outside security experts say that Vatican security has improved dramatically. The pope’s security detail employs new techniques from video surveillance to databases of potential suspects.
“Experts can brief the official they must protect and make certain recommendations,” Blanco told USA Today. “But if he wants to stop suddenly and bless someone or kiss a baby, well, he’s the pope and they cannot stop him. They have to adjust and make sure he’s as safe as possible when he does what he wants to do.”