The Swiss Guards have been given anti-terrorism training, and now carry SIG P75 pistols and Heckler-Koch MP5 sub-machine guns, as well as their traditional halberds.
By Malcolm Moore in Rome
The Vatican has created an anti-terrorist unit in order to guard the Holy See and the pope from a possible attack.
Vatican security forces now include an anti-bomb squad and a rapid response team, according to Domenico Giani, the head of the Holy See’s 130-man gendarmerie.
The Vatican will also work more closely with Interpol to gather information on any threats, he said.
The deal with Interpol, the pan-European police agency, will give the Vatican access to a large data bank of suspects and information on the latest anti-terrorism techniques.
“The teams report directly to the head of the Gendarmerie,” said Mr Giani in an interview with L’Osservatore Romano, the official Vatican newspaper.
“The rapid response team will carry out investigations across the spread of information channels and will be supported by a sophisticated technical team. It will be able to intervene immediately in case of danger,” said Mr Gianni.
“The second group is made up of highly-specialised experts, armed with sophisticated and innovative technology,” he added.
He said the two teams would not be confined to the Vatican, but would also travel with the pope.
The Swiss Guards have also been given anti-terrorism training, and now carry SIG P75 pistols and Heckler-Koch MP5 sub-machine guns, as well as their traditional halberds.
Earlier this year, Osama bin Laden repeated threats against Pope Benedict, who he accused of “leading a crusade against Islam”.
The pope has been the subject of a series of attacks since 2006, when he used a quotation in a speech at Regensburg University that said Islam was an “evil and inhuman” religion.
Pope John Paul II was shot and wounded in St Peter’s Square in 1983 by a Turkish gunman, Mehmet Ali Agca.