A man with mental health issues broke the security barrier around St Peter’s Square in Rome, ramming his car through a checkpoint demanding to see Pope Francis.
Police in Rome said in two statements that they arrested a 64-year-old “mentally unstable” Italian who drove into a one-way street to the left of St Peter’s colonnade.
“He crashed past a police vehicle and broke through the wooden barricades that surround the square.
“The incident in which nobody was hurt, took place at around 9.30 p.m. (1930 GMT) Friday,’’ the police said.
The intruder was described as a carpenter from Ronciglione, a town about 70 kilometres north of the Vatican, who is undergoing psychiatric treatment.
Officers acted “appropriately and correctly” in deciding not to use firearms, because they were informed that they were not dealing with a terrorist, and because the man posed “no immediate danger” to others, police stressed.
Rome-based daily, Il Messaggero, added that the man got out of his car and, visibly agitated, started ranting. One of the things he said was, “I want to see the pope.”
Security around the Vatican and other major landmarks in Rome has recently been stepped up due to fear of terrorist attacks.
The city’s police force said that what happened Friday should prompt “further thinking” about the security of sensitive sites.