Teen Arrested for ISIS-Inspired Threat Against Pope Francis During U.S. Trip

Image: Pope Francis
Pope Francis delivers a speech during an audience directors, employees with their families, of Cooperative Credit bank of Rome in Aula Paolo VI at the Vatican on Sept. 12. ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP - Getty Images

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By Richard Esposito, Jonathan Dienst and Elisha Fieldstadt

A teenager living outside of Philadelphia who had threatened to carry out an ISIS-inspired attack on Pope Francis during his upcoming visit to the U.S. was arrested by the FBI last month, a source with knowledge of the case told NBC News.

The 15-year-old New Jersey boy allegedly had detailed a plan including multiple assailants, firearms and explosives that he threatened to execute during the pope's visit, which begins in Washington, D.C., on Sept. 22 and concludes in Philadelphia on Sept. 27. He also will visit New York City.

The boy was communicating with people overseas and looking at ISIS material online but didn't have access to the funds or resources to carry out his plot, a source with knowledge of the case told NBC News. Authorities considered not charging the teen because of his age and possible compromised mental state, but because the threat involved the pope, they decided to move forward with charges, the source said.

ABC News first reported the threat, detailing an intelligence bulletin by the FBI and Department of Homeland Security that said "the minor was inspired by [ISIS]."

The FBI's Philadelphia office declined to comment on any specific threat to the pope, but spokeswoman Carrie Adamowski said in a statement that "the FBI is working closely with the United States Secret Service and our federal, state and local partners in advance of the papal visit to ensure the safety and security of all."

The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Mike McCaul, on Sunday referenced a threat against the pope that U.S. authorities had "disrupted," but he likely was not referring to the teen's plot.

The Vatican said they are not aware of any specific threats made against the pontiff during his U.S. visit. "The Pope will travel on an open-roof pope mobile to be in touch with the people, as he always does,” a Vatican spokesperson said during a news conference Tuesday.