U.S. 'Disrupts' Plot Against Pope Francis Ahead of Visit

The U.S. has "disrupted a plot" against Pope Francis as it steps up security measures ahead of his trip to the country later this month.

Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), who is head of the House Homeland Security Committee, told ABC's This Week program that American authorities are monitoring potential threats "very closely" and that one had already been stopped, although he declined to give any more details about the incident.

McCaul said that he had been briefed by the secret service and that he was "concerned" about the papal visit. "The pope is a very—I'm Catholic, by the way—he is a very passionate man," he said. "He likes to get out with the people. And with that comes a large security risk."

"We are monitoring very closely threats against the pope as he comes in to the United States," McCaul continued. "But as that date approaches, I think we're all very...vigilant to protect him as he comes into the United States."

The pope will go to Washington, D.C., New York and Philadelphia during his time in the U.S. He will visit the United Nations and Ground Zero whilst in New York and will also hold a Holy Mass at Madison Square Garden. 93,000 New Yorkers entered a lottery in the hopes of winning tickets to attend the pope's procession through Central Park. While in Philadelphia, Francis will attend the Festival of Families, a huge gathering which is expected to attract more than one and a half million people. In Washington, many of the city's major roads will be closed for the duration of his stay, with district officials encouraging people to work remotely over the three days of his visit to avoid disruption.

U.S. President Barack Obama will meet Francis at the airport when he arrives on September 22, with Francis being only the third pope to visit the White House. Thousands of guests have reportedly been invited to greet him at an event to be held at the residence, and he is also due to take a ride around some Washington streets in his popemobile—a customized vehicle with a glass enclosure.

In March this year, the inspector general of the Vatican's police force, Domenico Giani, acknowledged that ISIS militants pose a threat to Francis during an interview with an Italian magazine. "The threat exists. This is what has emerged from my conversations with Italian and foreign colleagues," he said, although pointed out that there were no indications that any attacks had been planned.