VATICAN CITY — The head of the Swiss Guards says the elite corps that protects the pope and the Vatican is ready to confront any terror attacks, following renewed threats against Rome by supporters of the Islamic State group following the Barcelona attack.

Commander Christoph Graf told Swiss Catholic website cath.ch this week that “perhaps it is only a question of time before an attack like that happens in Rome. But we are ready also for this.”

Authorities have long considered the Vatican a potential target, and security around the city-state have been increased significantly since the Holy Year of Mercy, drawing pilgrims from around the world, launched in November 2015. The main road leading up to St. Peter’s Square has been closed to traffic and uniformed police are out in greater numbers.

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