Vatican Minimizes Threats to Assassinate Pope Now on 5-Day Visit to Croatia
OSIJEK, Croatia (AFP) - The Vatican yesterday downplayed threats made to Pope John Paul II during his ongoing visit to Croatia, saying the Roman Catholic leader's travels were often met with fraudulent attack warnings.
"It is not unusual that during Pope's trips there are warnings or rumors of potential assassination attempts. The credibility of these information is often very doubtful or completely false," Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro Valls told journalists travelling with the Pope during his five-day visit to the Balkan state.
Navarro Valls said the Vatican would pass on all information to relevant authorities, but added: "I can assert that in the 100 trips the Pope has taken up until today, we have never considered it necessary to modify the itinerary of his trip."
Two Croatian news agencies, the Catholic news agency IKA and the HINA news agency, each received on Friday an e-mail message, signed by the "el Mudjehedin Islamic Front," threatening to assassinate the Pope during his stay in Croatia.
The message, entitled "message to infidels," was sent in the name of Allah, HINA reported.
Croatia's interior ministry said that the message had a Bosnian address and was apparently sent from abroad, adding that it had requested international police assistance in the matter.
Navarro-Valls was speaking to journalists in a plane carrying the Pope from the northern town of Rijeka to Osijek, in the east, where he was due to give a liturgy to a crowd of around 100,000 pilgrims.
It is the pontiff's third trip to the predominantly Roman Catholic country, following stays in 1994 and 1998.
He is based in Rijeka, and has already visited the southern Adriatic city of Dubrovnik.
After the Osijek service, the pope was later on Saturday to go nearby Djakovo. He is to conclude his stay in the Balkan country with a visit Monday to Zadar, also on the Adriatic coast, from where he will fly back to Rome.
OSIJEK, Croatia (AP) - Urging believers to help heal the wounds of war, Pope John Paul II brought a message of reconciliation Saturday to a corner of Croatia still embittered by conflict in the 1990s.
The 83-year-old pope, midway through a strength-sapping 100th foreign pilgrimage, also was reaching out to leaders of the Orthodox church as part of his efforts to thaw a millennium of mutual distrust between the two major branches of Christianity.
Relations between Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians have often been tense in Eastern Europe, where the Vatican is seen as seeking to expand its influence in traditionally Orthodox lands.
Last year, the pope reached out to Orthodox leaders in a visit to Bulgaria.
The dispute is particularly acute in Russia, which has thwarted John Paul's hopes of visiting that country.
John Paul urged believers in the eastern Croatian city of Osijek - which saw some of the most vicious fighting in the country's 1991 war for independence from Yugoslavia - to help bridge a postwar rift between Catholic Croats and Orthodox Serbs.
"After the trying times of the war, which has left the people of this region with deep wounds not yet completely healed, a commitment to reconciliation, solidarity and social justice calls for courage on the part of individuals inspired by faith," he told an estimated 150,000 pilgrims assembled on an airfield in sweltering heat for a Mass. …