Pope Francis is about to visit a country with a long history of papal assassination attempts

Pope Francis’s visit to the Philippines this week is
going to be a tense one for his Swiss Guard
security detail: ISIL allegedly issued a threat to kill
the pontiff ( http://
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/16/pope-
francis-isis-threat_n_5830522.html ) last year,
around the same time that the Filipino Islamic
guerrilla group Abu Sayyaf pledged its allegiance
to the Islamic extremist group’s cause.
What’s more, the country has an unhappy history
of assassination attempts on popes. John Paul II
was the target of two plots ( http://
http://www.smh.com.au/
articles/2002/11/11/1036308581808.html )
organized by al-Qaeda operations chief Khalid
Sheikh Muhammad in the Philippines in 1995 and
1999. A few decades earlier, Paul VI was stabbed
on the Manila airport runway ( https://
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0L8z8yKn930 ) by
a Bolivian painter ( http://news.google.com/
newspapers?
nid=1356&dat=19810215&id=rxEwAAAAIBAJ&sjid=qAUEAAAAIBAJ&pg=6905,7248075 )
in 1970, but escaped with minor injuries.
Gregorio Catapang, the head of the Philippines’
military, described an attempt on the pope’s life as
“the biggest security nightmare ( http://
http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2015/01/
pope-philippines-visit-security-
nightmare-20151118567213433.html ) ” of the
government. Francis is expected to make a major
speech on climate change during his visit to the
world’s largest Catholic country after Brazil and
Mexico, which has borne the brunt of exceptionally
severe storms in the last few years.
Six million people are expected to attend outdoor
mass this Sunday in Manila. As Quartz has
reported, some traffic police have been told to
wear diapers ( http://qz.com/323051/manila-would-like-just-
about-everyone-to-wear-diapers-for-the-popes-
visit-next-week/ ) because of a shortage of
portable toilets. In a religious procession on Friday
that authorities were treating as a dry run for the
mass, one man was trampled to death ( https://
news.yahoo.com/man-dies-catholic-parade-
manila-ahead-popes-visit-052015316.html ) .
The potential ISIL threat to Francis was first raised
by Iraq’s minister to the Vatican ( http://
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/the-
pope/11098905/Isil-want-to-assassinate-the-
Pope-says-Iraqs-ambassador-to-Vatican.html )
in October, in response to the pope’s comments
that the group must “be stopped.” In his
Christmas speech, Francis condemned ISIL’s
“brutal persecution” of religious minorities. The
Vatican has downplayed the rumors of any ISIL
plot and said no additional security measures
would be taken.
Abu Sayyaf has been conducting a long-running
Islamist insurgency in the southern Philippines, and
is well-known for kidnapping and ransoming
Western hostages. In October, the group
threatened to behead an elderly German couple (
http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/
features/2014/10/philippines-abu-
sayyaf-201410187641392234.html ) unless it
received $5.6 million and the German government
withdrew support for the US-led bombing of ISIL
targets in Iraq and Syria. An Australian man was
arrested in July for recruiting for ISIL among
Filipino Muslims ( http://www.voanews.com/
content/reu-philippines-arrests-australian-isil-
ties/1955322.html ) . The Philippine government,
however, has claimed that Abu Sayyaf is just
“riding the bandwagon” of ISIL ( http://
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/26/world/asia/
philippines-says-local-terrorist-group-not-linked-
to-isis.html ) .
The “popemobile” for the Manila trip will pay
homage ( http://manila.coconuts.co/2015/01/12/
popemobile-be-used-ph-pays-homage-jeepney )
to the jeepney, the Philippines’ famous buses. It
will be heavily armored but doesn’t have
bulletproof glass, which Francis disdains because
it is like a “sardine
can” ( http://en.radiovaticana.va/
news/2014/06/13/
pope_francis_speaks_to_catalonian_newspaper_about_pius_xii_/1101739 )
that walls him off from followers.
> #PopeInPH ( https://twitter.com/hashtag/
PopeInPH?src=hash ) : This is the “popemobile”
that will be used by Pope Francis in Philippines
pic.twitter.com/N87zPfc7qQ ( http://t.co/
N87zPfc7qQ )
>
> — VaticanCommunication (@PCCS_VA) January
9, 2015 ( https://twitter.com/PCCS_VA/
status/553587752919650308 )
The pope will also be protected by the Philippine
military, including two battalions of Filipino UN
peacekeepers ( http://www.gmanetwork.com/
news/popefrancis/story/381230/pinoy-un-
peacekeepers-to-guard-pope-francis-during-phl-
visit ) along with plainclothes officers from the
Vatican Swiss Guards. By law Swiss Guards have
to be Swiss, Catholic, and male, and are trained to
use the halberd, a combination spear and axe (
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halberd ) .

Author : Adam Pasick

URL : http://qz.com/324875/pope-francis-is-
about-to-visit-a-country-with-a-long-history-of-
papal-assassination-attempts/

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