John Paul II Thanks Italian Police for Vatican Security

Notes the Effects and Fears Left by Sept. 11

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 17, 2002 ( John Paul II today thanked Italian police for the measures taken to defend the Vatican in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The Pope also stressed the need for a more open and supportive society, to drive out people´s fear and restore their confidence.

The Holy Father expressed his best wishes for the new year to the detachment of security forces that guard the access to St. Peter´s Basilica. Italian police oversee security for St. Peter´s Square, even though it is in Vatican territory.

«As a consequence of terrorism, a feeling of fear has spread among people, which generates anxiety, mistrust and narrow-mindedness,» the Pope said.

«Although adequate measures must be adopted to guaranty everyone´s security, at the same time it is necessary to restore people´s confidence in a society that can live its interior relations in greater openness and solidarity,» he added.

Security around the Vatican and in connection with John Paul II´s trips has been reinforced since September, when Western secret services warned that the Pope and Holy See were possible targets of terrorist attacks.

On several occasions, Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro-Valls has said that John Paul II prefers not to comment on such revelations, and to carry out his apostolic ministry as usual.

During Wednesday´s general audience, the Pope thanked the Italian police for their work, which to date has guaranteed the tranquility of millions of pilgrims who come every year to Rome.

«It is a peaceful invasion of people of different ages, origins and cultures, who live an important community experience,» the Holy Father added. «They enjoy reciprocal respect, acceptance and fraternal dialogue. At the same time, with different languages and traditions, they proclaim human and spiritual values that make men brothers.»

«Your attentive and daily vigilance makes possible the respect and safeguarding of this ´climate´ of faith and fraternity,» John Paul II concluded.

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