Pope's Holy Year Triggers Tight Rome Security, Air-Space Ban

  • Concerns over panic prompt ban on film sets with fake arms
  • Jubilee year starts Tuesday, could draw 30 million pilgrims

Rome authorities have imposed a wave of security measures for the start of the yearlong Holy Year called by Pope Francis, including closing of the air-space above the capital and a ban on the making of films featuring even fake weapons.

Not even drones will be able to fly over the center of Rome and above the main basilicas including St. Peter’s on Tuesday from 6 am to 10 pm local time. Carrying weapons, petrol, liquefied petroleum gas or methane gas will be banned, city officials said.

Shooting scenes for films which involve fake weapons and vehicles similar to those used by the police and the military will also be banned, as will setting off fireworks. Authorities fear that the sight of even fake weapons in the streets could spark panic. That doesn’t include the submachine guns carried by military personnel in camouflage now stationed permanently outside some of Rome’s metro stations and tourist spots.

The soldiers will also watch over the long lines which are expected to form around St. Peter’s as people entering the square, which was once a free and open space, go through metal detectors. Other measures include a ban on cars into two so-called “red zones” east of St Peter’s Basilica and near the Spanish Steps, where Francis will pray before a statue of the Virgin Mary.

Francis will start the jubilee year, watched by his predecessor Benedict XVI, by opening the Holy Door in St Peter’s. Last month’s terror attacks in Paris fueled concern that Islamic State may target the Vatican or pilgrims, some 30 million of whom are expected to flock to Rome for the jubilee year, which will run from Tuesday until November 2016 and focus on conversion and repentance.

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