The Vatican fears a terrorist attack against Pope Francis, a veteran cardinal said in a Thursday interview, in the most outspoken acknowledgment to date of a possible threat posed by the Islamic State group.vatican

“The fear is there,” Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone told the Italian version of the Huffington Post website. Serving as Secretary of State from 2006 to 2013, Bertone was the Vatican’s second-in-command after retired pope Benedict XVI.

“But there is also a calm and confident attitude, given the precautions that have been taken,” he added, noting that police surveillance and intelligence has been strengthened, along with efforts to reach out to moderate Islam.

“The first defence against the threats coming from fanaticism like the [Islamic State] is this dialogue with the most level-headed and reasoning sections of other religions,” the cardinal said.

“It is not the first time that the [Catholic] Church is threatened. Just think of the assassination attempts against Paul IV in Manila and against John Paul II here in St Peter’s Square,” Bertone noted.

He added: “Of course, now these threats are more menacing and also more unpredictable in terms of implementation.”

The Italian cardinal is a controversial figure because on his watch, the Church’s bureaucracy, or Roman Curia, was known for cronyism, infighting and financial mismanagement, as exposed by the VatiLeaks scandal.

Bertone has also been accused of exerting undue influence on the Institute for Religious Works (IOR), the Vatican’s scandal-tainted bank, to favour friends and contacts, and to have chosen an exceedingly lavish apartment as his retirement residence.

Denying all wrongdoing, and claiming credit for starting work on cleaning up Vatican finances and fighting paedophile priests, Bertone said he was collecting material for a memoir book that should set the record straight.

GNA

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