Second Vatican Council

Order temporary closing of St. Peter's Basilica [after bombing attempt]

(The following is the complete reprint of a 1962 article run in The Criterion in the final days leading up to the Second Vatican Council)

Criterion logo from the 1960sVATICAN CITY—St. Peter’s Basilica has been ordered closed temporarily because of bombs placed their in recent months.

The basilica and the grottoes beneath were ordered closed until October 11, opening of the Second Vatican Council, by Cardinal Gustavo Testa, secretary of the administrative secretariat responsible for material preparations for council.

On September 22 an incendiary bomb and a detonator were found in the basilica beneath the tiers of upholstered wooden seats prepared for the council Fathers. This was the fifth recorded attempt to bomb the basilica.

Prior to that, a bomb exploded in the basilica on July 14. It had been placed at the base of a statute in the apse of the basilica near the Altar of the Chair.

The bomb which exploded in July was low powered and did not do much damage, but the recently found bomb was reported to have been much more powerful and capable of doing extensive damage, especially to the construction in the council hall.

At first, the basilica was to be closed only at the end of September, so that final touches could be made on the council hall.

Because of the bomb scare, however, the flow of visitors into the basilica increased and even a doubled police guard it virtually impossible to exercise safety measures. It was decided therefore, to anticipate the basilica’s scheduled closing by several days.

The basilica will remain closed to all except the canons of the basilica and the priests of the Vatican staff for the celebration of Mass, and to the 300 men working on the council hall.

The decision means that until the end of the first session of the ecumenical council, the days on which the public will be admitted to the basilica will be rare, for the basilica will also be closed to the public during the general working sessions of the council Fathers.

Meanwhile, Vatican gendarmes and Italian police were cooperating in an effort to find some clue to the identity of the person who planted the bombs.

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