Military authorities discovered a small explosive device in a parking garage bathroom at the Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida in Brazil yesterday. The homemade bomb was found during a routine security sweep of the Marian shrine which Pope Francis intends to visit on Wednesday.
“It was a homemade device with little potential to cause fatalities,” the Brazilian military said in a statement. “It is worth pointing out that such episodes formed part of our security forces’ training in Aparecida and at no point were civilians’ lives in danger.”
Security is a top concern for the Pope’s first International Apostolic Visit on the occasion of World Youth Day. The Pope’s safety was brought up after his arrival in Rio where thousands swarmed around his car, reaching in through the passenger side window to greet the 76 year old Pontiff.
Brazilian authorities re-routed the motorcade to an Air Force base and transported the Holy Father to Guanabara Palace for the Welcoming Ceremony. The last minute change was made due to demonstrations against the Brazilian government held outside the palace.
In a report by Brazilian newspaper O Globo, a colonel in the Brazilian army expressed his concern for the Holy Father’s safety. “There was a weak point in the security of the Pope. This has to be evaluated and remedied. If there had been a hooligan among the faithful, he could have thrown a stone or something worse,” Diogenes Dantas told the newspaper.
Fr. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office, while acknowledging that there are lessons to be learned from the chaotic scene surrounding the papal motorcade, expressed his complete confidence in the security provided by the Brazilian authorities.
During a briefing with journalists, Fr. Lombardi stated that while the Pope’s secretary was frightened by the faithful surrounding the car, Pope Francis seemed calm and enjoyed greeting them. “The Pope’s secretary told me that when the car was stopped, he was scared at times, but the Pope was very happy and waving,” the director of the Holy See Press Office said.
From his Twitter account, the Holy Father expressed his gratitude for yesterday’s welcoming. “Thank you to all of you and to all the authorities for a magnificent welcome in Rio #Rio2013 #JMJ,” the Holy Father tweeted.