Foiled Attack On Basilica Emphasizes Threat To Rome And Need For Prayers
By Michael H. Brown
The apprehension of Al Qaeda operative Khalid Sheikh Mohammed may alleviate direct threats on the Vatican and other Christian landmarks. Or at least we can pray that this be the case -- and pray we should. As we reported earlier, Mohammed was part of a cell that had targeted the Pope in 1995, attempting to bomb him in the Philippines but was thwarted by a miraculous fire that destroyed the chemical as they were mixed.
This was in Manila, and in the hideout police found a Bible, a Crucifix, a map, the Pope's itinerary, and clerical robes (indicating the terrorists were going to disguise themselves as priests). Mohammed, now in CIA custody, was part of a cell with a Bin Laden terrorist named Ramzi Yousef -- who is now serving a life term in a U.S. prison for masterminding the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York.
Concern was heightened several weeks ago when police in Italy arrested 28 Pakistani terrorists. There is now a dispute over whether they were actually "terrorists," but just two weeks before that, five Moroccans who had explosives and a map of the Basilica del Santa in Padua, the famed shrine of St. Anthony, were likewise apprehended. A similar plot was foiled by Italian police last year, when a cell of Moroccans was busted in Rome. It is likewise known that in 1997 Islamic terrorists planned to kill the Pope with a car bomb in St. Peter's Square. They were going to plant it in the colonnade, within thirty feet of the Pontiff when he came to greet pilgrims.
This has clearly shown the presence of terrorists in Italy, and that they have holy sites (and His Holiness) on their list of targets.
No one can know for sure how yet how controlling an influence the "mastermind" terrorist Mohammed was, but the fact that he was so closely linked to a serious attempt on the Pope and that he is now in custody at least lend hope that certain prayers have already been answered.
What effect an apparently imminent "war" with Iraq will have is yet to be seen. If the U.S. attacks Iraq, this may be viewed by many Muslims as a rekindling of the Crusades and a sign of the end times. Vince Cannistraro, a former CIA agent who also advises the Vatican on security, says the Pope has long been a prime target for Bin Laden. "He looks at the Pope as the symbolic head of the crusaders and a natural target," Cannistraro has warned.
At the same time, John Paul II has reached out to Muslims -- even visiting a mosque -- and has opposed the anticipated war, which may mitigate Muslim hatred.
Still, we need to pray, especially during Lent, when prayers are so powerful. It is perhaps no coincidence that two months ago, John Paul took time out to specially thank his security force. We now owe this tremendous Pontiff both our prayers and our obedience. His discernment of the current world situation demands our close attention, for if the wrong moves are made on the geopolitical stage, they not only jeopardize civilian targets but also places revered by Christians, many of incalculable historical and spiritual value.
This is a "holy war." It started in a major way on September 11 and there are too many targets for comfort. Rome, with his towering, ancient cathedrals, remains the main concern. Striking there would be striking at the world's highest level of Christian symbolism.
According to a New York man named Ned Dougherty, a former New York nightclub owner in the wealthy Hamptons, the threat remains. Dougherty, who claims he was warned about a terrorist attack on the Vatican during a near-death experience, says he was shown future events by the Virgin Mary, including the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. Now a daily Catholic communicant, he is concerned for the Vatican itself, which he says was specifically indicated to him in his visions -- although it can be shielded through prayer, and we believe that this is exactly what will happen: that the courageous prayers of the many faithful will spare us a wrenching tragedy.
[Resources: Fast Lane To Heaven, From Hamptons to Heaven]
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