Pope Francis terror threat: Vatican denies 'concrete and specific' reports it has been named next target for Islamists after Paris shootings

Italian media said the CIA and Israel’s Mossad had contacted Vatican officials to warn of an imminent security risk

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The Independent Online

The Vatican has moved to play down Italian media reports that it had been named as a probable next target for an Islamist attack.

After the Pope denounced the shootings that killed 17 people in three days across France last week, La Repubblica, Corriere della Sera and other newspapers reported that spies had received intelligence of an imminent security risk to the Holy See.

According to the reports, the Vatican authorities had received specific warnings from both Israel’s Mossad and the US’s CIA agencies regarding Pope Francis’s safety.

But speaking as the pontiff arrived in Sri Lanka for the first leg of a week-long tour of Asia, Vatican officials denied there was a specific new threat.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said that while normal contacts among security services continued, the Holy See had been given no “concrete and specific” regarding an attack.

On Monday, Pope Francis condemned the Paris killings and urged Muslim leaders to denounce interpretations of religion that use God's name to justify violence.

“Violence is always the product of a falsification of religion, its use a pretext for ideological schemes whose only goal is power over others,,” he said during an annual meeting with diplomats from 180 countries, informally known as his “State of the World” address.

“I express my hope that religious, political and intellectual leaders, especially those of the Muslim community, will condemn all fundamentalist and extremist interpretations of religion that attempt to justify such acts of violence,” he continued.

He said: “Religious fundamentalism, even before it eliminates human beings by perpetrating horrendous killings, eliminates God himself, turning him into a mere ideological pretext.”

Additional reporting by Reuters