Bulletproof glass reduces fear of attack (but no guns)

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The Independent Online

The Vatican last night played down concerns for the Pope's safety following the arrest of six men in an alleged terror plot against him. Father Lombardi, the Vatican's spokesman, insisted there was no need to review his security detail after the arrests in central London in the early hours of yesterday morning.

If the security scare shook the Pope, he showed no concern has he toured the capital in his Popemobile. Like any other public figure, he is a target, but he is well protected. For the past five centuries, Popes have been guarded by the Swiss Guard, who, in St Peter's Square in 2007, wrestled to the ground a young German who had tried to leap on to Pope Benedict's open-top jeep.

In the UK, security men run alongside the Popemobile as it moves through the crowds. There is another travelling in the vehicle itself. The glass on the Popemobile is bulletproof – a lesson drawn from the last serious attempt to kill a Pope, when a Turkish petty criminal named Mehmet Ali Agca opened fire on the vehicle as it passed through St Peter's Square, hitting Pope John Paul II four times.

When the same Pope visited Peru, in 1988, a security company was asked to create a vehicle that could withstand a terrorist attack. Early designs included gun ports. "That was dismissed by the Vatican," said a spokesman. "It was decided it wouldn't look good for the Pope to fight back."