Security was tight in St Peter's Square on January 24. Normally the iconic plaza at the Vatican in front of St Peter's Basilica sees throngs of tourists. Today, however, it was eerily quiet as police were evident following an overnight bomb threat.
The Vatican received an anonymous bomb threat, following an explosion near a foundation linked to the French embassy to the Vatican. Witnesses reported seeing police cars and overhead helicopters at the Vatican following the explosion. Following an investigation, the bomb threat to the Vatican was determined to be a hoax.
The incident took place on the same morning that Pope Francis met with French President Francois Hollande. The two had a 30 minute meeting and discussed, according to a Vatican statement, issues “such as the family, bioethics, respect for religious communities and the protection of places of worship.” The Vatican statement also said that religious freedom was discussed in the meeting. Hollande confirmed that he assured the Pope that the French Republic “defends religious freedom everywhere.” He said that France is “the homeland of human rights and freedom of conscience.” However, in the days before the meeting, over 100,000 French citizens signed a letter to the Pope citing their "deep unease" over the Hollande government.