Tight security for Pope visit

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Part of the capital Nicosia will be on lockdown to accommodate Pope Francis’ visit with central roads closed to the public and more than 500 police officers on duty to protect the Pontiff.

Cyprus police are on the highest alert, with action plans constantly being reviewed as the Pope is considered a high-risk target for attacks.

The Pope, who arrives on Thursday and leaves Saturday, will also be accompanied by a strong Swiss guard from the Vatican.

In comments to Philenews, Assistant Chief of Operations Demetris Demetriou outlined the huge operation to protect Pope Francis and the Vatican delegation accompanying him.

Demetriou said officers from across the island had been called in to help out their Nicosia colleagues.

A total of 567 officers will be policing the capital’s streets during Pope Francis’ three-day visit.

The force’s Special Counter-Terrorism Squad and the intelligence services have a prominent role.

The police have already prepared a draft for the security measures, while the Pope will be awarded the honours of a head of state.

Regarding the measures taken, Demetriou said roads used by the Pope would be automatically closed to the public without warning.

Police will not announce road closures in advance, and the public is asked to comply with officers’ instructions.

The Larnaca – Nicosia highway will be closed on Thursday morning when the Pope arrives at Larnaca airport and heads for the capital.

Nicosia centre will be cordoned off, with only residents allowed in, as the Archbishopric in Paphos Gate is where the Pope will stay.

On Thursday morning, there will be a diversion on Markou Drakou Avenue in Nicosia and at the junction of Rigenis and Arsinois streets. The diversions will only be lifted on Saturday at 10 am.

Police helicopters and drones will be deployed to monitor the Pope’s every movement.

Pope Francis will hold an open-air mass at the GSP stadium in Nicosia on 3 December, with a huge security operation shielding the Pontiff.

The faithful attending the mass will be searched and their Safe Pass documents scanned before being allowed into the stadium.

According to preliminary meteorological forecasts collected from both Cyprus and abroad, the weather on the day is expected to be fine.

Reportedly more than 200 journalists and pilgrims from neighbouring countries will also be attending the service.

Pope Francis will hold a prayer on Friday with migrants at the Church of the Holy Cross.

On Thursday he will meet President Nicos Anastasiades at the Presidential Palace at 5.30 pm.

The President is expected to brief the Pontiff on the Cyprus problem and migrants and discuss the climate crisis.

The Pontiff will pay a courtesy call to Archbishop Chrysostomos II and meet the Holy Synod on Friday.

He is only the second pope to visit Cyprus; the last was in 2010.