Protecting the pope: how much is too much? Pope Francis says no to wall

Wednesday, September 9, 2015
Pope Francis not happy about potential wall being built in NYC
EMBED <>More Videos

NJ Burkett reports from Midtown

NEW YORK (WABC) -- There are signs of disagreement between Pope Francis, the Secret Service, and the NYPD.

His visit to New York City is just two weeks away.

The Vatican's ambassador to the United Nations told Eyewitness News that Pope Francis, who likes to be among the people, is not happy about a proposal to build a wall on 5th Avenue to protect him from the crowds.

Late Wednesday afternoon, NYPD detectives huddled with agents of the US Secret Service outside St. Patrick's Cathedral, while others ran through a series of scenarios at police headquarters.

NYPD officials say protecting Pope Francis will be one of the most monumental challenges in the modern history of policing.

Vatican officials are also concerned, but not about the pope's safety.

"My big worry is how much because of the security, will people go out in the streets to see him," said Archbishop Bernardito Auza, Vatican UN Ambassador.

In an Eyewitness News interview, the pope's UN ambassador said Pope Francis has made his wishes clear; he wants to greet the crowds gathered on 5th Avenue and in Central Park.

But he says the Secret Service wants to build a wall down 5th Avenue, and to require admission tickets to the park. At a news conference, the archbishop said those measures are still being debated.

"They are talking about walling and having tickets. The Holy Father would not be very pleased," Auza said.

The archbishop told Eyewitness News Pope Francis is passionate about people, and security needs to reflect that.

"He wouldn't love the walls, I think even the security people know that. The Holy Father really wants to reach out as much as he can; I think that's also very nice. His charisma is also very nice and the love of the people for him," Auza said. "It would be not pleasant for him if the people couldn't greet him."

The Mayoral Press Secretary released a statement saying, "Decisions on access are being made to ensure the safest possible visit while providing attendees with as much direct access to the Pope as possible."