Blog Post

Teen Pleads Guilty in Plot to Kill Pope

pope francis arrivalCommentary by Susan Brinkmann, OCDS

The reason for the unusually tight security surrounding Pope Francis’ 2015 trip to America became abundantly clear yesterday when a New Jersey teen pleaded guilty to a plot allegedly inspired by ISIS to kill the pope during his visit.

The AFP is reporting on the case involving Santos Colon from Lindenwold, New Jersey.   Colon, who was 15 years old at the time, attempted to recruit a sniper to shoot the pope while he was celebrating Mass in Philadelphia on September 27, 2105. He also planned to set off explosives.

Thankfully, the teen unwittingly recruited an undercover FBI agent for the job and was arrested 12 days before the event.

"Colon engaged someone he believed would be the sniper, but in reality was an undercover FBI employee. Colon engaged in target reconnaissance with an FBI confidential source and instructed the source to purchase materials to make explosive devices," the Justice Department said in a statement.

According to the AFP, Colon sought to carry out the act in support of the Islamic State group and used the adopted name Ahmad Shakoor.

Colon, who is now 17 years old, pleaded guilty as an adult before U.S. District Judge Noel L. Hillman in Camden to one charge of providing material support to a terror group. He faces a maximum of 15 years in prison; however sentencing is likely to be held off until as late as 2021 while undergoes psychiatric treatment at a “secure facility.”

At the time of his arrest in August, 2015, Fox News reported that Colon may suffer from mental health issues.

As a participant in the September 27 Mass in Philadelphia, I can only shudder at the thought of the pandemonium such an attack would have generated. Notwithstanding the fact that the Holy Father could have been killed, there were hundreds of thousands of people surrounding him at the time. There is no telling how many people would have been injured by either the shooter or the stampede that would likely have followed.

As for the ISIS connection, there is no doubt that the terrorist group definitely had their eyes on the event. While broadcasting a live video of the scene on Periscope that day, I received a chilling message: “Greetings from the Islamic State.”

I will admit that many of us grumbled about the inconveniences of the security - the long lines at the check points, having our backpacks and purses searched, the sight of heavily armed police on the streets and snipers on top of the surrounding buildings. However, it’s now abundantly clear that the measures were necessary because the threat was indeed very real.

We can only thank God and our dedicated law enforcement for averting what would have been a true tragedy on that historic day.

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