VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) — A man has been arrested after climbing atop the high altar while naked in St. Peter’s Basilica on Thursday night in protest against the war in Ukraine.
Shortly before the basilica closed on the evening of June 1, a man climbed onto the high altar – which is situated above the burial site of St. Peter – and proceeded to strip himself naked.
In an image captured by tourists present at the time, and later shared on the Telegram channel “Welcome to Favelas,” the man can be clearly seen without clothes. Inscribed on his back appear to be the words “Save Children in Ukraine.”
Italian media reported that the man was experiencing bouts of depression, and was causing scratches on himself with his fingers by way of a self-infliction of harm.
The basilica guards, the SanPietrini, apprehended the man and dressed him before taking him to the Vatican Gendarmerie for questioning. He is reported to have stated how he is mourning “for Ukrainian children losing their lives under Russian bombardment.”
While the guards reportedly acted quickly once the man was standing on the altar, it is unclear how he was allowed to make his way there in the first place. Rope barriers surround the altar which stands several feet above the basilica floor, meaning the man either climbed up the sides or up the steps.
Given that he is reported to have disrobed once atop the altar, the event marks a major breach in the basilica guards’ response and prevention.
Italian Catholic site SilereNonPossum attributed the event to Cardinal Mauro Gamberti’s “bad management.”
The 57-year-old cardinal has been Archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, Vicar General of His Holiness for Vatican City and President of the Fabric of Saint Peter’s since February 2021.
Gamberti has “promoted many people and brought them to the offices of the Fabbrica di San Pietro but left St Peter’s Basilica without security personnel,” wrote the Italian blog.
Shortly after Gamberti began his new role in 2021, private traditional Masses were nearly banned in the basilica, and priests ordered to concelebrate Novus Ordo Masses rather than say such liturgies privately. The restrictions came from the Vatican’s Secretariat of State, though some speculated if Gamberti was ultimately behind the move.
Yesterday’s incident comes hot on the heels of another security breach at the Vatican, when a man drove past two security checkpoints and right into the San Damasso Courtyard, which lies at the heart of the Vatican City State.
The man’s car was shot at by guards, but to no avail. Once he reached the courtyard he surrendered himself.
After spending a night in the Vatican Gendarmerie barracks, the man was questioned and subsequently moved to the “psychiatric ward of the Santo Spirito in Sassia Hospital for mandatory medical treatment.”
The Vatican’s security appears to be suffering a current lack in efficacy.
LifeSite has contacted the Holy See Press Office seeking further information on the naked protestor, and will update this report upon receipt of a response.