Security for Pope Francis almost doubles ahead of Africa trip

VATICAN CITY - The security team for Pope Francis nearly doubled in size last week, just before his visit to Africa, which begins Wednesday.

The extra security was already evident Sunday at the Vatican. The ramped up security was in place long before the faithful even began to arrive. Armed police from Italy's' numerous forces were on every corner.

Everyone who arrived for the pope's weekly "angelus" was checked, bags opened, and there were random pat-downs. And that was just to get into the street in front of St Peter's Basilica.

2015-11-22t115440z1128692558gf20000069668rtrmadp3pope-vatican-security.jpg
Italian Carabinieri officers check a nun as she arrives to attend the Pope Francis' Sunday Angelus prayer in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, November 22, 2015. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

The lines stretched for several blocks for those wanting to enter the square itself. That involved another layer of security, including metal detectors. The security wasn't just a reaction to the Paris attacks.

Some months ago the cover of the ISIS online magazine had a doctored photo showing their flag flying from the obelisk in the center of the main Vatican square.

The implied threat didn't worry Ernest and Joanne Morelli from St Petersburg Florida, however.

"We feel as if the Carabinieri are doing a pretty good job, they're all over the place. I mean we don't feel as if anything could happen at this point," the Morellis said. "I mean obviously it always could, but we feel fairly safe."

Pope Francis is known to be indifferent to his own security, but aides say he is deeply concerned for those who flock to see him.

The only way to absolutely ensure security in a place like this is to stop the terrorists well before they reach their target. But as both sides know only too well, the police have to get it right every time, while the terrorists only have to get lucky once.