LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) – Pope Francis has told law enforcement authorities in charge of security around the Vatican that he while he saw "shadows and dangers" – he encouraged not for them to give into fear. "On the horizon we see shadows and dangers which worry humanity," Pope Francis said. There has been an increase in security around the Vatican amid fears that Islamic State agents may be plotting to attack the head of the Roman Catholic Church. "As Christians we are called not to lose heart or be discouraged," Francis said in a New Year’s message to the police.

Security has been on heightened alert in Saint Peter’s Square since September after intelligence services intercepted a possible plan to attack the Vatican. Francis has frequently spoken out against the Islamic State group. The Holy See has also voiced its support for U.S. air strikes in Iraq. This has led several to think that this increases the Pope’s likelihood as a terrorist target.

Italy’s interior minister this month said police were on high alert in key locations across Rome and around the Vatican after the Paris attacks.

The most visible sign of the West’s Christianity, the Vatican has long been a high-profile target among extremists. On Christmas Eve of 2003, hours before Pope John Paul II was to say midnight Mass, the highest officials of Italian government met to assess intelligence reports about potential terror attacks, possibly including one on the Vatican.