The recent attacks by Muslim extremists in Paris and Copenhagen have left people wondering’’ where will they strike next?

The Pope has warned there are “shadows and dangers” hovering over mankind, as the Vatican faces new threats from Islamic State (IS) militants. 

In his annual greeting to his public security team , Francis said the safety officials were “stewards” with a vital job to do guarding the “heart” of Christianity. 

He told the security team they had the task of guarding places “that have great importance for the faith and for the life of millions of pilgrims”. 

“I pray that everyone can feel safe thanks to your presence and care,” the Pope said.

Earlier this week IS, which has just beheaded twelve Egyptian Christians reiterated its threats to the Vatican. 

In an audio message, IS “spokesman” Abu Muhammad al Adnani said: “Soon this crusading campaign will be defeated, with Allah’s power and strength. Then we will meet in Jerusalem and the next appointment is in Rome.”

The group previously published a mock-up of the black IS flag flying over St Peter’s Square on the front page of their propaganda magazine Dabiq.

Earlier this month American intelligence sources are said to have warned that the Vatican could be the next IS target. American intelligence officials have alerted the Holy See of the possibility of such an attack. Iraq’s ambassador to the Holy See has previously warned that the Pope is one of the prime IS targets.

 Italian and Vatican authorities have downplayed all the reports, saying they had received no concrete information about an imminent attack against either the Pope or the Vatican.

Despite the increasing risks, Pope Francis frequently gives his security brief cause for concern, wading into crowds and refusing to travel in an armoured vehicle during visits abroad. May the angels protect him  from all harm and danger

In the same week Pope Francis insisted that the need to keep channels of communication with Islam open was “greater than ever”. 

Listening to other faiths was a necessary condition for peaceful coexistence, he told the Pontifical Institute for Arab and Islamic Studies

The Church had long ago understood the need for dialogue with Muslims he said. It is a need that we feel “perhaps now more than ever”, adding that the most effective antidote against any form of violence is education that helps us “to discover and accept each other in spite of  our differences”.

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