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Vatican: Man arrested after crashing car into gate

May 18, 2023

The Holy See said a man driving a car rammed into a gate at the Vatican, breaching security. A medical examination showed that he was in a "serious state of psychophysical alteration."

An Italian police car passes in front of St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, late Thursday, May 18, 2023
A car driven by someone with apparent psychiatric problems sped past Swiss Guards into a palace courtyardImage: Andrew Medichini/AP/picture alliance

Vatican police on Thursday fired at the speeding car's front tires after it rushed the gate, but the vehicle managed to continue on its way, the Vatican press office said in a statement.

The Vatican said the driver was about 40 years old. He was medically examined after the incident and was determined to be in a "serious state of psychophysical alteration."

Driver reached courtyard

When the car reached the San Damaso Courtyard of the Apostolic Palace, the driver got out and was arrested by Vatican gendarmes.

The incident took place at around 8 p.m. local time (1800 UTC/GMT) at the Santa Anna Gate, which is one of several main entrances to the 108-acre sovereign  Vatican City State in Rome.

Pope Francis lives on the other side of Vatican City. The Vatican said a gate blocking access to the piazza in front of his hotel was immediately shut when the gendarmes sounded the alarm of an incursion. 

A rare incident

Much of the Vatican City State is off limits to the general public — especially at night.

While the incident marked a rare incursion, it was not the first time a seemingly psychologically disturbed person caused disruption in the city-state.

In 2009, a woman jumped the barricade of St. Peter's Basilica during a Christmas Eve Mass and tried to attack Pope Benedict XVI. He was not harmed. 

fb/sms (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)