Pope shuns guard escort, despite security fears
Pope Francis has shunned a presidential guard escort for his first state visit to the Italian president in yet another breach of protocol, even though some people have expressed concerns for his safety as he ramps up his reform of the Vatican.
The Pope's simple blue Ford Focus and the small Vatican motorcade pulled up to the Quirinale Palace without the blaring of sirens that typically accompanies politicians and foreign dignitaries cruising through central Rome.
Once inside the one-time summer residence of popes, the pontiff walked slowly with President Giorgio Napolitano past the honour guard.
Pope Francis's shunning of the trappings of the papacy – including its security apparatus – has defined his papacy so far. But his desire to be close to his flock and his aim to curb corruption and waste in the Vatican have raised fresh security fears.
A leading anti-Mafia prosecutor, Nicola Gratteri, has warned that Francis's financial house-cleaning might make him a target for Italy's mob, though he provided no evidence that such a threat existed or that the mob was planning a hit.
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev Federico Lombardi, said the Holy See was not concerned, adding, "There's no reason to fuel such alarmism".