Defying Death Threats, Pope Goes to Sarajevo

  • Share
  • Read Later
SARAJEVO: On a trip meant to deliver spiritual renewal, Pope John Paul II's weekend mission to Sarajevo is operating under a cloud. Recent explosions have already damaged five Catholic churches and a Franciscan monastery, sending tremors throughout the city's Catholic community of 30,000. As death threats are issued against John Paul, workers have welded shut manholes in the city and residents are under orders not to open their windows during the Pope's 25-hour visit. The greatest tension centers around Snipers Alley, a long stretch of road known for its wartime shootouts that the Pope will travel on his way from the airport Saturday afternoon. While Bosnian authorities will take responsibility for the Pope's daily security, NATO-led peacekeeping forces have dispatched anti-sniper teams and explosive-sniffer dogs to the city and set up a joint emergency center with police. The ultimate test of these security precautions comes on Sunday when the Pope, speaking in Serbo-Croatian, will address as many as 60,000 Catholic pilgrims at a mass in Kosevo Stadium. Many of the pilgrims traveling to Sarajevo will first have to pass through territories held by non-Catholic ethnic groups, a fact the Vatican has emphasized in detailing the attrition undergone by the Catholic Church in Bosnia-Herzegovina since war erupted in 1992. From a pre-war high of 530,000, Bosnian Catholics living in and around Sarajevo now number only 125,000.