Pope Francis told Italian police on Thursday (22 January) that he saw "shadows and dangers" around the Vatican.

Amid fears that Islamic State (Isis) militants might be plotting a terrorist attack on the head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis said: "On the horizon we see shadows and dangers which worry humanity. As Christians we are called not to lose heart or be discouraged."

Pope Francis's comments were directed at the police officials in charge of security around the Vatican.

Security around the Vatican has been tightened after intelligence services reportedly intercepted plans to attack the Vatican, reported AFP News.

Italy's interior minister said earlier that police remain on high alert in key public locations in Rome, including Saint Peter's Square, where the security was recently tightened last September.

Some fear Pope Francis's verbal attack on IS could be the trigger behind an IS terrorist plot on the Vatican.

During a visit to Turkey last November, Pope Francis condemned IS for a "profoundly grave sin against God" in Syria and Iraq.

Meanwhile, Iraq's ambassador to the Vatican, Habib Al Sadr, has also pressed on the alarming situation and warned: "What has been declared by the self-declared Islamic State is clear. They want to kill the Pope. The threats against the Pope are credible."