08 December 2015

UPDATED: Rome prepares security for the Jubilee of Mercy

On the eve the opening of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy announced by His Holiness Pope Francis, the city of Rome is serious about security and keeping pilgrims safe:
As of 6:00 am Sunday morning until 6:00 pm Wednesday, December 9, the transport of weapons, ammunition, explosives, and toxic gases is prohibited within Rome precincts, as well as the lighting of fireworks.

On December 8 itself, Rome will become a no-fly zone from 6:00 am until 10:00 pm, with a complete ban on flights in Rome airspace. On this day no one may transport fuels, methane ​​or natural gas within Rome city limits.

Gabrielli said that the establishment of a no-fly zone, which includes small aircraft and drones, is not meant to inconvenience anyone, but simply to allow people to continue their lives peacefully with a greater sense of security [more].
The tightened security comes, of course, in the wake of the attacks the Islamic State recently conducted in Paris and following several threats against the city of Rome and the Vatican City State over the past year or more

In addition to the increased presence of some 2,000 police and military personnel throughout the Eternal City each day, police are also conducted traffic stops, a curious sight to behold in a city where the police rarely issue parking tickets (though there are plenty of such opportunities). As Breibart reports:
Under the label of environmental responsibility, the city has also begun limiting traffic in the city by declaring odd or even license plate days, when half the plates are ineligible for circulation. Police are taking advantage of surveillance to conduct random stops of vehicles and review passengers’ documents [more].
The New York Times reports that theses security precautions have not been created as a consequence of the attacks in Paris:
“We can’t underestimate anything,” Mr. D’Angelo said of the controls, included in a 220-page plan that draws from Italy’s experience defeating domestic terrorism in the 1970s and 1980s.

“We developed this plan over time, because the terrorism alarm didn’t start yesterday,” Mr. [Niccolo] D’Angelo [Rome's chief of police] added.

Still, the doubts are such that spontaneous protests have surged on social media to halt the Jubilee, which many here see as an unnecessary risk in risky times. But appeals to the Vatican under the hashtags #nogiubileo and #stopgiubileo, as well as impromptu demonstrations, have fallen on deaf ears.

Through various prelates, including the Vatican’s chief spokesman, the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church have vowed that the Jubilee will go on [more].
Indeed, His Excellency the Most Reverend Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization is so confident in the safety of those embarking on pilgrimage to walk through the Holy Doors in Rome that he said, as quoted by the NYT, “We have all the reasons to think that there is a total guarantee with regards to the safety of the pilgrims that will come to Rome, but that, obviously, it is necessary to adopt the appropriate measures, as is the case throughout the world.”
His words might be attributable to a lack of appreciation of the real situation, an over-confidence, or even the typical refusal of the Vatican to admit something is wrong until there is no doubt (I don't know which is the case). Archbishop Fisichella added, “I don’t see why the situation in Rome has to be overdramatized.” One might point out a difference between overdramatization and a recognition of reality.

I, for one, am glad for the increased security and awareness, but it's going to make for an interesting year, to say the least.

UPDATE (2:00 p.m., 7 December):

Even the morgue of the Eternal City is seemingly preparing for the possibility of a terrorist attack by asking for the removal of at least 70 of the 150 bodies presently in the morgue, many of which should have already been buried. Wanted in Rome has a bit more:
The hospital has asked for at least 70 spaces to be freed up in the mortuary to be able to cope with what it terms “any eventuality”. Although the director does not appear to be more specific, Corriere della Sera interprets the plea as falling under the measures now in place to cope with a terrorist emergency [more].
UPDATE (3:00 p.m., 8 December):

Even as the Italian military and the metropolitan police increase their presence and widen their patrols, taxi drivers in Rome are also be trained in counter-terrorism measures:
The founder of “Defend Italy from Terrorism,” Fabrizio Santori, said that the program will equip cab drivers to “serve the function of watchful eyes during the forthcoming Jubilee.”

The 500 men and women participating in the course will be trained by security experts, but are encouraged not to interfere with the police in carrying out their functions. “They will have the role of attentive observers,” Santori says, “but they will not be law officials on patrol” [more].

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