Pope to Italian police: Your service helps pilgrims to Vatican welcome Jesus
By Robin Gomes
Pope Francis on Thursday thanked Italy’s state police who maintain law and order in St. Peter’s Square and around the Vatican, saying their difficult yet precious service helps many pilgrims welcome the Lord.
The Pope made the remarks to the officials and representatives of the Inspectorate of Public Security at the Vatican, whom he traditionally meets at the start of the new year.
Service during the pandemic
Welcoming them along with their families, the Holy Father expressed his esteem and appreciation that during the pandemic, they have been able to modulate their work well, combining the health protocols, the rules of public order and the needs of pilgrims.
The Pope noted that it was also due to their “professionalism that life around these sacred places and Vatican City took place with serenity”.
“Night and day, your vigilance protects the people who go to pray in the Basilica and who come to meet me," he said. "Your punctual activity also facilitates the spiritual and religious events held in St. Peter's Square, as well as the visits of tourists.”
While expressing his gratitude to the Inspectorate, Pope Francis also encouraged the police so that their precious service, which at times is difficult, is always supported by the fundamental motivation to take care of the people, protecting each one’s dignity and safety.
Regarding this an important and delicate task, he said they carry it out with “diligence and solicitude, striving, even in the most complex situations, to be patient and available.”
The Italian police guarantee and coordinate all armed escort for the Pope when he leaves Vatican City.
The Holy Father commended their assiduous collaboration on the occasion of his trips to Rome or his pastoral visits to Italy. Their discreet yet effective presence, he said, is made even more profitable by the collaboration with the Vatican Gendarmerie [Vatican Police].
Helping people encounter the Lord
The Holy Father insisted that the person always be at the centre of their service. "Perhaps someone comes with a request, problem or a need which, at times, is not fair and a little heavy," he said, thanking them for their patience and for treating people as they are in life. "That's how God treats us,” he said.
Recalling the feast of the Presentation of the Lord in the Temple, the previous day, Wednesday, Pope Francis said it is also called the "feast of encounter".
He explained the Gospel episode saying it is the meeting of Mary and Joseph, young newlyweds who have just become parents, with two elderly people, Simeon and Anna. “Different generations and stories meet, and Jesus is at the centre.” With their work, the Pope said, the police also allow many encounters to take place in the Vatican where the Lord is at the centre.
Nearly 77 years of service
The Inspectorate of Public Security at the Vatican is an outcome of the Lateran Pacts of 1929 between the Vatican and the Italian government, which formally recognized the Vatican's independence.
The Inspectorate was born in March 1945 as a Special Office of St. Peter’s Police Station. In June 1954, it changed its name to the General Inspectorate of Police Station at the Vatican, and since March 2001, it has come to be known as the Inspectorate of Public Security at the Vatican.
Since the Vatican is surrounded by Italian territory, the agreement Lateran Pacts entrust the Italian police with the Pope’s security when he leaves Vatican City. The Italian police guarantee and coordinate all armed escort for the Pope, some top Vatican officials and important heads of state every time they leave or head to the Vatican.
Since 1992, the Inspectorate has been dealing with the residence permits of foreign religious and lay people who reside in Rome for religious, study or work reasons. It works in collaboration with Italy’s immigration office in Rome
Two other separate security entities also cooperate to ensure security to the Pope and the Vatican – the famed Swiss Guards and the Vatican Gendarmerie, which is the Vatican’s own police force.