HOSPITAL security chiefs in the Midlands have been put on alert for an assassination attempt on the Pope.
Benedict XVI is expected to visit Coventry and Birmingham when he makes his first historic visit to Britain in September.
Now security bosses at Birmingham City Hospital have revealed they would deal with any assassination attempt because of their expertise in dealing with bullet injuries because of gang crime.
The 82-year-old Pope is due to carry out the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman while in the Midlands for only the second Papal visit to this country since Henry VIII broke with Rome.
Although the location of the saint-making ceremony and the Catholic leader’s tour are still secret, it now looks certain that he will visit Coventry, and probably the Second City, too.
But the Pontiff, who has recently spoken out against gay marriage, abortion rights and contraception, may attract street protests during his appearance.
Medical contingency plans and practice exercises are already taking place, with scenarios including a shooting or riots, according to Peter Finch, head of security at City Hospital in Winson Green.
Mr Finch, who used to protect the Queen and her family while working in the RAF’s VIP counter intelligence and terrorism units, said: “The Pope’s visit has only just been announced.
“But we have known for some time about the Pope going to Coventry and he is expected to come to Birmingham, too.
‘‘We have to make contingency plans in case if anything happens and he is injured.
“The Pope is royalty. We have had two assassination attempts on Popes in the past four or five years. He is a real target.
“If anything happens to him, we will have hundreds of press camped outside the hospital and that is before the Catholics turn up.
“Police can shut off all the mobile phone system so only designated phones can be used if we had a significant issue restricting communications.”
The 51-year-old former Flight Lieutenant and Provost Officer said emergency exercises were being stepped up over coming months at the hospital in preparation for the visit.
A draft itinerary for the Pope’s trip is understood to include Coventry, Birmingham, London, Edinburgh and Oxford but final details are yet to be confirmed by the Vatican.
The head of the Catholic Church has always been a highly protected figure, after previous attempts on his life.
READ THE REST OF THE STORY FROM THE SOURCE: Hospitals in Midlands on Pope assassination alert ahead of his UK visit – Sunday Mercury
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