Is Pope Francis The Next ISIS Target?

To say that ISIS is managing to raise terror and anger in the Western world is a massive understatement. The Islamic extremist group's beheading video of American journalist James Foley has been deeply imbedded in controversy over its veracity, but its effect is palpable regardless -- the mother of another journalist currently under ISIS custody recently released a sobbing plea for her son's safe return. On domestic U.S. soil, attacks on the LGBT community have even been tentatively linked to ISIS. But another claim is begging Catholics to ask the question -- is the pope a target?

While Italian newspaper Il Tempo initially reported that the pope is "in the crosshairs of ISIS" because of the group's decidedly anti-Christian views, the Vatican has attempted to squash these rumors quickly -- saying that ISIS' vague threats toward Rome do not necessarily seal a hit out on Pope Francis, reported The Huffington Post. Spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi S.J. told Catholic News Agency:

"There is nothing serious to this. There is no particular concern in the Vatican. This news has no foundation."
Even with the Vatican's staunch stance against the rumors, the Italian government is taking the threats seriously even though targeting of the pope was not listed a primary concern. Italy's deputy interior minister Filippo Bubbico has confirmed that both Italy and the Vatican are under terrorist alert on both religious sites such as the Holy See and tourist attractions like the Coliseum and the Spanish Steps, reported The Daily Beast.
"ISIS poses an international and European security threat and we in Italy feel particularly exposed."
Italy has not been immune to defectors from the Italian state to ISIS' grab for power in Iraq. The government estimates that around 80 Italians are now fighting for ISIS in region, raising the possibility that Pope Francis may be a target for ISIS. Jihadi recruiter Imam Bilal Bosnic is thought to responsible for the majority of the Italian ISIS converts. He recently gave an interview to Italian daily La Repubblica in which he called Foley a "traitor" who was a casualty of war, as well as made grand statements about the goals of the Islamic extremist organization that make an attack on the pope seem possible.
"We Muslims believe that one day the whole world will be an Islamic state. Our goal is to make sure that even the Vatican will be Muslim. Maybe I will not be able to see it, but that time will come."
Whether or not the pope is a target, spokesmen from the group may do little to assuage fears that other major political and religious figures in Rome and elsewhere in the world may be.

[Images via Fame/Flynet]