Vatican security 'stays on high alert' due to IS threats of Holy See attack

(Photo: Ecumenical News / Peter Kenny)Pontifical Swiss Guards have guarded the Pope for centuries and also take care security at the Vatican as well as assisting tourists visiting the Holy City as this photo taken on June 3, 2008 shows.

Vatican security groups are staying on high alert in the Holy See after fresh threats against Pope Francis from the extremist group calling itself Islamic State, according to a high-ranking official.

Quoting the Pope's chief bodyguard Domenico Giani, Catholic News Service reported that all Vatican security forces are vigilant for the Holy See.

This includes the Vatican gendarmes, Swiss Guards, and the Italian State police, are always on their toes when it comes to security in the area.

"There are not only the threats of the Islamic State, but also the risk of action by individuals, which is more dangerous because it is unpredictable," said Giani, the head of the gendarmes.

He was quoted in an interview with Polizia Moderna, the monthly magazine of the Italian State police.

Rumors have been rife for months that IS intends to launch an attack on the Vatican or Pope Francis.

Jihadists have targeted Christians and other religious minorities, as well as Muslims not acceptable to, IS as a ploy to expand their influence in the region.

The matter became a pressing concern in February after militants claiming to be part of the IS killed 21 Christians in Libya, which is less than 300 miles (483 miles) from Italy.

"The threat exists," Giani said. "That is what has emerged in meetings with my Italian and foreign colleagues.

"But the existence of a threat is one thing and planning an attack is another. At this time, we have not been informed of any plans to attack the Vatican or the Holy Father."

Asked how the Pope is adjusting with such a threat to his life, the security official insisted that Francis would not stop his contact with the "with the greatest number of people possible."

"Even as pontiff, he has remained a priest who does not want to lose contact with his flock," Giani said.

"Those of us entrusted with his security must adapt to his style and not the other way around," he continued. "We must do everything possible so that he can continue to carry out his ministry as he wants and believes is best."

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