Tight security for Far East tour
POPE JOHN Paul arrived in South Korea on Wednesday at the Start of an eleven day, 24,000 mile tour of four Far East countries. Tight Security will surround his entourage throughout the gruelling tour which is fraught with danger.
Earlier this week the Vatican was considering reports that a plan had been uncovered to kill the Pope during his five day stay in South Korea. The assassination scare reached such a level that one Italian newspaper carried the headline "The Pope's life in danger."
Reports from United States intelligence agencies said that Communist North Korea was behind the plot_ The world's most wanted terrorist "Carlos", and the Turkish "Grey Wolves" movement were both mooted as the possible plotters.
The Vatican has attempted to counter the speculation. One spokesman said: "It is obvious that any world renowned figure such as the Holy Father is constantly in danger. He is always exposed to peril. Madmen and terrorists are lurking everywhere. "It is a risk he has taken — and one which he calmly accepts. But as far as I know we have received no concrete information so far of a plot to kilt him while he is in South Korea. And our security services are very well informed."
The Pope meanwhile stressed the missionary and pastoral aspects of the trip, his 21st outside Italy. Apart from the stopover in Alaska and the fiveday tour of South Korea, he will visit Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Thailand.
Speaking to 40,000 people gathered in St Peter's Square, he asked for prayers so that his trip would be "rich in spiritual fruits and rouse missionary enthusiasm."
Although he hardly referred to the diplomatic, political and ecumenical aspects of the trip, they are at the forefront of his mind. He said he hoped that the two Koreas would soon be "one loving family."
Apart from his Wednesday meeting with the President of the United States, Ronald Reagan, in Fairbanks, Alaska, the highpoint of the visit should prove to be his canonisation of 103 eighteenth and nineteenth century South Korean martyrs. The country is celebrating the bicentenary of the arrival there of Catholic missionaries.
But his visit to the Phanat Nikhorn refugee camp in Thailand, planned for the morning of May 11, could be the most political gesture of the tour. Moreover as Thailand is 95 per cent Buddhist, his 36-hour stay there will have important ecumenical significance. He is scheduled to meet the supreme Buddhist patriarch and King Bhumibol Adulyadej, a Buddhist.
The Pope's meeting with President Reagan, who was returning from a trip to China, will be the first since the reestablishment of full diplomatic relations between the United States and the Vatican.
Among those who applied to take part in the entertainment was a woman who wanted to skydive into the airport to greet, the Pope. She was turned down, but an Athabascan Indian woman famous in Alaska for her skills in native sewing and bead crafts was included in the line-up of more than 640 performers, including a group performing a traditionaJ Eskimo blanket toss, involved in the ceremony.
The tour of South Korea which ends on Monday is seen as the spiritual keystone of the trip. The canonisation on Sunday of the 103 Koreans who died in persecutions during 1839, 1846 and 1866 is the first canonisation ceremony to have been planned outside Rome. Ninety-two of the 103 were lay people and 47 of them were women.
The Church in Korea, under the leadership of Cardinal Kim, has taken public stands in defence of the rights of workers, and the Pope may well use a meeting with workers in Pusan tomorrow to support the local Church's position.
The Pope's linguistic skills will be tested during his three day trip from Monday to Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. For two months he has been learning pidgin English, the language common to both countries, and he plans to celebrate Mass in pidgin and use it to deliver a sermon.
News analysis — page 3.