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GENDARME-INTERPOL Sep-29-2008 (290 words) xxxi

Vatican's security force to join Interpol

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- After setting up two new anti-terrorism units this year that work closely with international police, the Vatican's security force has plans to join Interpol.

Vatican Radio reported Sept. 28 that the Vatican's security force will join the international police organization sometime before Oct. 10 in St. Petersburg, Russia.

The announcement of the alliance was made during a Sept. 27 celebration at the papal summer villa in Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome. Pope Benedict XVI briefly appeared at the celebration and gave his "sincere thanks for the competence and dedication" of the security force, or gendarme corps. The feast day of St. Michael the Archangel, the corps' patron saint, is Sept. 29.

The corps' director, Domenico Giani, said the force also is looking into forging an "agreement of cooperation with the Italian police," reported Vatican Radio.

The Vatican and Pope Benedict have been named as potential targets by extremist groups in recent years. Although the Vatican has downplayed the threats, it also has beefed up security, adding metal detectors for all visitors to St. Peter's Basilica and attendees at papal events. The gendarme corps also has been deployed at Vatican territories outside Vatican City, in particular at Rome's patriarchal basilicas.

The gendarme corps, which has about 130 members, works in close collaboration with the Swiss Guard, especially during events involving the pope.

Earlier this year the gendarme corps started working more closely with Interpol, and in June Giani told reporters that the arrangement marked a big step forward for Vatican security. The collaboration gives the Vatican access to a large data bank of suspects, the latest information on criminal or subversive organizations, and information on the latest anti-terrorism operational procedures.


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