The Vatican has played down renewed reports of a death threat against Pope Francis by Islamic State (IS) militants.
On the eve of the pope's one-day trip to Albania next Sunday, the Iraqi ambassador to the Holy See, Habeeb Al Sadr, on Saturday told the online version of Rome daily Il Messaggero: "Our intelligence and our analysts suggest this [attack on the pope] could happen.
“We all know how these terrorists think. Their targets are known. I would not rule out them managing to attack him (Pope Francis) . . . I have warned senior people in the Holy See and they know the dangers represented by these terrorist groups.
“After all, the Vatican supports the Iraqi state in its efforts to stop IS.”
However, papal spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told The Irish Times yesterday that the Holy See was unworried by these reported threats, adding: "There is nothing special, nothing extraordinary in this report, nothing new.
“For that reason,” he said, “we will carry on as per normal, we are not worried”
Three weeks ago, Rome daily Il Tempo, citing unnamed Israeli and Italian secret service sources, claimed that Pope Francis had become a target of the Islamic State, within the context of its war on the west.
That speculation was probably sparked by comments made by the Pope on his flight on the way back from a pastoral visit to South Korea last month.
Asked if he “approved” of US bombardment of IS forces in Iraq, he replied: “In cases like this, where there is an unjust aggression, then it is licit to halt the aggressor. But I stress ‘halt’. I don’t say bomb, or make war, but rather stop him.”