Vatican security alert: armed priest arrested at Regina Caeli

Regina Caeli

A parish priest from the Czech Republic was detained at the Vatican entrance as he attempted to enter St Peter’s Square and take part in Pope Francis’ Regina Caeli prayer.

The 59-year-old priest, identified as Father Milan Palkovic, was found carrying an air pistol, two knives, a cutter and a screwdriver.

The weapons were identified during a routine screening by the metal detectors. St Peter’s Square visitors must pass through the detectors before entering the square.

Palkovic claimed the items were for personal defence and belonged to another man accompanying him, who was also detained.

Both men, part of a group of pilgrims from the Czech Republic, denied any criminal intent and stated they came on a pilgrimage.

Authorities confiscated the weapons and initiated an investigation into the incident.

The priest faces charges of illegal possession of weapons. However, neither he nor the other man has prior criminal records.

Second weapons-related incident

The occurrence was the second weapons-related incident in less than a month at a papal event.

The Regina Caeli event follows a recent incident where a man on New York’s “most wanted” list was apprehended in St Peter’s Square in the possession of knives, apparently with the intention of attending the pope’s general audience.

In that incident, Moises Tejada claimed to have arrived from Moldova after being involved in conflicts in Ukraine.

St Peter’s Square was crowded with pilgrims and tourists as Pope Francis held a general audience on 10 April. It was not clear if Tejada, who has convictions for robbery and kidnapping, posed any threat to the pope.

Tejada is currently detained in Italy and awaiting an extradition request from the United States.

In his address, Pope Francis renewed his gratitude to the Swiss Guard for its presence in the Vatican which he said “stands out for its quality, for its kind, attentive, scrupulous style” and for its service, which is always “generous and diligent”.

The Vatican has yet to comment on the incidents.


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