So a guy forcing his Fiat Panda into Vatican City has his car shot up by the Vatican Gendarmerie, but he continues on his way to the most highly secured areas of the Holy See with no problem whatsoever, right past all the Swiss Guard. That’s weird.
If I’m wrong about this being a training scenario doubling as a useful hazing of the newbie Swiss Guards just sworn in on 6 May 2023, ironically, in the Cortile of San Damaso, where all this drama came to a dramatic end, then, well, it ain’t lookin’ good at all for Vatican Security. I’m guessing this is training, and that this was done in conjunction with the Vatican Gendarmerie, a hazing that takes everyone off guard, as it were. Great! By the way, the Vatican Gendarmerie were the only shooters. ;-)
The problem is that, given what happened, everyone in the media has called out Vatican security for being entirely unprepared for any kind of terrorist event. I want to give a positive take on what we’ve witnessed with this drama. After all, these guys are some of the best in the world, even the newbies coming in are extraordinarily well prepared, the best of the best. It seems to me that this strange incident actually being a training scenario / hazing answers the most questions, the most consistently, and with the greatest simplicity. This brings the possible to the probable and is likely the correct take on what happened.
But this also raises more questions about timing (regardless of the fact of the newbies just being sworn in), and then the infant terrible manner of forcing policy changes regarding rules of engagement (I love that), and then the usual “empire building” (more money, more equipment, more personnel) not that I disagree with any of those things in this particular case of Vatican City State in the weird times in which we live. You gotta do what you gotta do to demonstrate that the status quo is insufficient in a manner which can no longer be denied. That status quo is not the fault of the newbies. I’m sure they followed protocol with great exactitude. But things will have to be allowed to be changed by the powers that be. That’s the purpose of all this. Brilliant.
Granted, we don’t know what we don’t know. But lets assume, out of respect for our brothers in arms, that this is all about training and see what happens. “Training”, in this case, is in the style of full-on war games, you know, wherein it is announced that “This is not a drill! This is not a drill!” for something that could be as catastrophic as was September 11, 2001.
- Firstly, you have a get-together at which all of those newbie Swiss Guards who are to be hazed are present. All arms are collected at the door. They’re told the reason, that there will be a rather violent training scenario during their get-together and they don’t want any hot-heads getting carried away. They know nothing of the events that will follow, however, and once again the opportunity is taken to give them a final reminder about the rules of armed engagement (probably something like “Do not fire unless you are personally fired upon”).
- Then, when they are bored to tears and dreaming about being back in Switzerland, while in full uniform (and this is difficult), and without any other warning, the instructors body slam the new recruits and start grappling exercises while another instructor announces that this is the surprise training drill they were told about and so they are not to intervene. It’s all quite violent, quite painful, quite humiliating, entirely distracting, and… encouraging, you know, by letting them win toward the end of the session, the newbies wiping out the instructors, everyone cheering. The perfect set-up. Adrenaline flowing, feeling like they can conquer the world with no weapons at all. But they do have weapons. It’s just that they’ve been instructed that, basically, they can’t use them, pretty much no matter what.
- Amends are made, unexpected small raises in pay are announced to all individuals. You provide them expensive bits of tasty food. All good.
- Some of the newbies are then assigned to their posts for the night. They are told that they had gone overtime in this meeting, and that they have to rush as fast as they can to their posts, that they will be timed. They grab their weapons and ammo magazines, which have, however, been tampered with by the instructors. All the ammo has been changed out for blanks. They have no time to check. After they are out the door, the others are told that they are in lockdown, that they are to sit down and watch the security monitors, you know, with popcorn and Coors, while their comrades in arms are put through a training scenario which doubles as hazing. There’s immediate laughter all around. They now realize that the surprise training drill was not the grappling, and that those already gone don’t know that. I mean, as the event begins, you can just hear the cat-calling, the “But I would have done this!” or “I would have done that!” and “Oh no!” and a thousand expletives in various Swiss dialects. But everyone laughing uproariously, grateful for being able to watch, but also with a certain dread that they themselves will be the watched in equally unannounced war games in future. Great for building esprit de corps. All good.
In the picture below, our driver (surely a security instructor himself) has to get from Porta Sant’Anna circled in the lower left in the picture, to a point super high up, circled in the upper center of the picture below. He’s gotta do that in a car. How would you do that? About Zero people in the world would know how to do this no matter how many tours of Vatican city they had. He had to have had help with the planning of his route. But, actually, he’s been hired to create this scenario for training and is given everything he needs. Thank goodness there’s no micromanaging from on high, which would go against security protocols. At least that (right?).
Let’s see approximately how many guard stations there are that he has to encounter. Each dot in the picture below represents a usual posting (at least in my day) on street level of either Swiss Guards or of the Vatican Police. I count perhaps a couple of dozen. The yellow lines are his route:
In the picture above, on the extreme right of the picture, you see the route going from the bottom to the top of the picture, climbing up an extremely steep tunnel inside the building. Don’t be fooled by the façade. I’ve travelled this route many times myself on a scooter and in a variety of cars which I was driving or in which I was a passenger. Getting to the top, the guy was blocked from turning right to go around the Basilica, straight to Pope Francis’ Santa Marta residence. Instead of stopping him, they forced him to take a sharp left (good call), but then let him go through numerous tiny courtyards and out into the spacious Cortile di San Damaso. Just my opinion, but maybe stopping him in any of those courtyards would have been best…
Let’s take a closer look, with the bottom courtyard being where he comes out of the tunnel and San Damaso at the top where he ends, all tunnels through the buildings being extremely narrow, able to be blocked, any damage contained. But, no. No shots fired, not even at the tires. Not by the Swiss Guard, because, they hadn’t been fired upon, right?
Anyway, the guy uses a Fiat Panda, such as the one pictured at the top of this post, a tin-can on scooter wheels, not threatening, which any cop is going to hesitate to shoot because, well, it’s just not a serious vehicle. Here’s the Porta Sant’Anna pictured below, where he entered Vatican City, in the daytime, then at night, so you get the idea:
What could go wrong?
So, he’s not stopped by the Swiss Guard directly at the gate. He just drives around them. By policy, there’s nothing they can do except leave the matter to the Vatican Gendarmerie while they themselves fully close the gate. The second set of guards open fire on his bumper on the passenger side, but their bullets are mere blanks. They are in on the training scenario. The guy is allowed to continue. Just my suggestion here, but why not have quick-set pylons which pop out of the ground at all the guard stations, you know, like everyone else in the entire world?
Anyway, he gives himself up in the courtyard of San Damaso, but he could have just turned around and gone back to Porta Sant-Anna, and then repeated the circuit a couple of hundred times until he ran out of gas, right? Anyway, as they begin to arrest him, his true identity as an instructor is announced over a megaphone commanding everyone to stand down and give him a round of applause. Jaws dropped. They know they’ve been had. End of exercise. They did obey policy, but now it has to be asked if that policy needs to be tweaked. What then follows at the jail and then the hospital the next day has also been arranged with the hospital and the Italian Military Police. Don’t think that they don’t also do these kind of war game scenarios themselves, also in conjunction with the Vatican. This is an all-the-time thing. No harm. No foul. All good. Meanwhile, for the public, they say that everything worked out.
And his psychophysical impairment? Sure, after a whisky together with the everyone else for a successful training session. :-)
In house, perhaps this exercise is to demonstrate other vulnerabilities. The guy is driving a Fiat Panda tin-can on scooter wheels, but it can be loaded up with, say, 400 kilos of C-4 (maximum cargo is 480 kilos). But what’s so interesting at the Cortile of San Damaso you ask, regardless of the presence of Pope Francis?
Well, well. In that high-up location, such an explosion would completely wipe out, vaporize:
- The Secretariat of State, where all the active records of geo-political and ecclesial affairs with every country in the world are worked on, including China, Russia, all the Islamicist countries.
- IOR, Vatican Bank, where records are kept of trillions of dollars of… money laundering and the financing of terrorism (right?)… with zero oversight of any watch-dog institutions in the world. The Vatican has no trade accords, therefore no financial oversight accords. Unique in the world.
Some gains for this exercise? At least…
- Changes for rules of engagement.
- Changes in, say, use of reinforced concrete pylons that pop up from the road to block traffic which are used ubiquitously right around the world.
If this wasn’t an exercise, something’s terribly wrong. Just a crazy guy? But… just… wow…
Meanwhile, I’m all about protecting Pope Francis. So again, I am reminded of this:
Not that long ago, some guy pre-recorded a message, then called my parish office phone, and then played his pre-recorded message for the parish phone system to record. He then hung up. Another call came in to the parish office phone recorder with another carefully prepared and edited pre-recorded message the next day.
The first message is one guy [a mole?] apparently recounting a conversation to which he was privy. He retains the usage of the various languages of the participants. I’m not the best polyglot in the world, and I could well be mistaken with my hearing perhaps not being the most accurate, but I’m guessing that the languages involved here are Bosnian, Portuguese, Romanian, Bulgarian and very American English.
The second message the next day seems to be a mocking reprimand for acting too slowly. All of this, on both days, up to the two last words at the very end of the second message, are all the narration of the same guy. But those two last words at the end of the second message are prerecorded and edited into the narrator’s pre-recording, someone with a thoroughly American accent, as if it were like a voice sample baiting someone to do a search on the sample for voice-print verification among assets. Anyone go missing?
FIRST MESSAGE MONDAY [a while back]
- [Bosnian] La porta Francisco. [Francis brings it (on himself).]
- [Portuguese] Che hai? [What do you have?]
- [Bosnian] Lo Pontifex delle chiese. [The Pontiff of the Church.]
- [Romanian] Uitole. [Forget it.]
- [Bosnian] Va lelu lazech… [Please….]
- [Portuguese] Da ferro. [From iron.]
- [Portuguese] Agirem- fra poco. [We will act quickly]
- [Bosnian] Esplorioso. [Explosive.]
- [Bosnian] Ne guio! Ne guio! [Not good! Not good!]
- [Bosnian] Vigile! Vigile! [Be careful! Be careful!]
- [Bosnian] Caesar iz annale. [Caesar is (already) in the annals (of history).]
- [Bosnian] Nach lella! [Get it done!]
- [Bulgarian] Igrish. [It’s your turn to play.]
SECOND MESSAGE TUESDAY
- [Portuguese] Enifiai. [Get going!]
- [Portuguese] Lo statistica dolosor. [It’s a painful record.]
- [American-English] Hateful.
- [The same American-English voice, but saying “Portugal” in the Bosnian language] Portuchugal.
This seems to refer to a bomb. “Caesar” seems to be the battle-name of the Portuguese guy, who is nominated by the Bosnian guy to get it done. That the American-English voice says [forced to say] “Portugal” in the Bosnian language is rather…
What creeps me out about this…
- … is the amount of time it must have taken to put these recordings together, especially the second message with the edits of the American voice.
- … that there was a second message the next day, with some kind of verification system.
What I mean to say is that:
- … if it’s for real that something was in the works, why involve me, say, as a messenger? Creepy.
- … if it’s fake, well, that’s pretty elaborate and time consuming. That’s just as creepy. And, if fake, and therefore a kind of baiting of yours truly, to what end? Cui bono? Creepy.
And if it is a hoax, that’s a waste of time for law enforcement and can be a felony. Just sayin’.
I’m duty bound to protect Pope Francis if I can. I have acted on this.
In the original post above I write: “FIRST MESSAGE MONDAY [a while back]”. The “DAY STAMP of “MONDAY” is not accurate. I just never bothered to set the clock. The audio file included in this post is a recording I made with my hand-held recorder (that I use to record homilies).
- After getting some advice, I immediately sent this off to the head of Vatican Intel. I’m sure that was expected. I added the caveat to be cynical with these messages, as it could all be a set-up, baiting, to see what they investigate, or not, or share with other intel services, or not, such as those with provenance in these United States.
- I didn’t want to say ever so breathlessly anything on this blog in one of those “for the record” posts, as I didn’t want to be duped into having someone outed and killed, such as that American voice edited in at the end of the second recording, you know, if any of this were to be real, and not some play-exercise for instruction of newbies by some bored counterintel officer behind an all too boring desk in Northeast Virginia. Killing of assets is always brutal. So I waited. So that if this was real, such a terrorist cell is surely long since disbanded, with most or all members dead or incapacitated.
- But if that American voice is one of ours, this publishing is, again, a plea to go and get him. That might have been done immediately if the Vatican shared that recording. But if nothing was done by anyone, this post is to say, that’s on them, not me, you know, for the record.
Oh, and just to say, listening to this again, the last word of the first message may be a different voice, another voice-print…
© 2023 Fr George David Byers
/// I mean, who knows. Maybe the present day Head of Intel at the Vatican to whom I was introduced when he was number 2, back in the day, by the then Head of Intel, perhaps took my recent missive seriously enough to send it along for verification. That result finally came back after appropriate actions were taken, and the Vatican was warned that there are some nefarious plans afoot. Thus, some rather outrageous training that pushes for equipment and policy change. Just my imagination, but, as I say, if this wasn’t training with that ulterior motive, security at the Vatican is about as useless as anything could ever be useless. And that ain’t no good.
I would rather say to all those involved in a training session: “Job well done!”