ROME — In the wake of the recent Paris attacks, when three hooded men killed 12 people while shouting Islamic slogans, the Vatican has denied a report of a security threat suggesting it may be the next target.
“The Holy See maintains its usual, appropriate contacts with the security services, and in view of the current situation advises a reasonable level of attention and prudence, but concrete and specific risks have not been indicated,” said the Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman.
Lombardi added that there is no reason to cause concern “that would affect those who live and work in the Vatican, and the many pilgrims and tourists who visit on a daily basis.”
The rumor of the Vatican being on high alert started Sunday when Israeli state television reported that American intelligence services had warned the Vatican about a specific threat.
But Lombardi denied the report, saying that “the Holy See has not been informed of specific risks by the security services of other countries.”
Diego Parente, chief of the Rome section of the Italian anti-terrorism unit, agreed with Lombardi, saying that there was no evidence to confirm reports that the Vatican could be the next target.
Regardless, Parente was quoted by Italian news agency Ansa as saying that “the level of alert is at the maximum.”
Meanwhile on Sunday, some 3.7 million people marched in Paris and across France — along with hundreds of thousands in other major cities around the world — to reject terrorism. Among the 12 victims of the attack on the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo magazine was Ahmed Merabet, a Muslim police officer who was killed in cold blood after being the first security guard to reach the scene.
In November, an audio message attributed to the terrorist organization Islamic State’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, said that the militant group’s “advance on Rome” wouldn’t be stopped. The 17-minute recording was released by al-Furqan media, a jihadi site.
According to a translation of the Arabic-language recording, al-Baghdadi said “The crusaders’ missiles will not stop our advance on Rome.”
Last October, the group published a photo of its flag superimposed on the obelisk in St. Peter’s Square on the front cover of its propaganda magazine, Dabiq.