VATICAN CITY — When Pope Benedict XVI met yesterday with members of the Italian state police unit responsible for Italy’s border with the Vatican, he thanked them, of course. But he also thanked their spouses and children.
The officers’ families, he said, share the sacrifices the police make when they get the 6 p.m.-midnight or the midnight-6 a.m. shift patrolling the territory around St. Peter’s Square and the Vatican.
Through a special agreement with the Vatican, Italian police control access to the square, patrol it and staff the metal detectors visitors must pass through to get into St. Peter’s Basilica or into the square when the pope is holding an audience or celebrating Mass there.
Recognizing that the officers’ work on his behalf could take them from their families, the pope told them, “I want to include your families in my thanks, with a special thought for those who have recently married or are preparing to take this step.”
As he usually does in his annual meeting with the officers, Pope Benedict also offered a reflection on how their patrols, protection and pilgrim assistance can become occasions for spiritual growth.
“That service carried out with love becomes prayer, a prayer that is even more pleasing to God when your work is not very gratifying, or is monotonous or tiring, especially when you are working at night or on days when the weather is bad,” the pope told them.
The Italian police Inspectorate for Public Security at the Vatican was established in 1929 when the Vatican and the Italian government signed the Lateran Pacts formally recognizing the Vatican’s independence. In addition to being the first-line of control to access to the Vatican, the 100-member unit is responsible for the safety of the pope and a few of his top aides when they leave the Vatican.