Police Arrest Five in London Over Threat to Pope

September 17, 2010 - 8:55 AM

pope

Pope Benedict XVI kisses a boy, as he arrives for a celebration of Catholic education at St Mary's University College, Twickenham, London, on Friday Sept. 17, 2010. (AP Photo/Steve Parsons, Pool)

London (AP) - The Vatican says Pope Benedict XVI has been informed of the five arrests connected to an alleged threat against him but plans no changes to his schedule.

The Vatican spokesman, Rev. Federico Lombardi, says the pope was not worried and remained calm. Lombardi says the Vatican has complete trust in the British police and does not consider the situation particularly dangerous.

Police say five men were arrested in a dawn raid Friday in London under the country's terrorism laws.

This is the second day of the pope’s four-day visit to Britain.

The suspects, between the ages of 26 and 50, were arrested under the Terrorism Act at a business in central London. They are being questioned at a London police station and have not been charged. Police said an initial search of the business had not uncovered any hazardous items.

Police had received information about a potential threat against the pope overnight, prompting the armed operation to arrest the five men early Friday morning.

Police declined to say whether the men were British or give details of their ethnicity, but there was no indication that it was a threat involving national security. Protesters and activists have previously been arrested under the Terrorism Act during high-profile events in Britain such as economic summits and state visits.

The pope's visit has divided opinion in officially Protestant, highly secular Britain. The trip has been overshadowed by disgust over the Catholic Church's clerical abuse scandal and opposition from secularists.

The pontiff will meet Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams later Friday, head of the Anglican Communion, in a display of unity between the divided Christian churches.

His main event Friday was an afternoon speech to British politicians, businessmen and cultural leaders in Westminster Hall where he was expected to press the need for faith to help shape public policy.

Earlier in the day, thousands of cheering Catholic schoolchildren feted Benedict with songs and gifts, offering a boisterous welcome as the pontiff urged them to ignore the shallow temptations of today's "celebrity culture."

Benedict also told their teachers to make sure to provide them with a trusting, safe environment -- the second time in as many days that he has referred to the church sex abuse scandal. On Thursday, the pope acknowledged that the Roman Catholic Church had failed to act quickly or decisively enough to remove pedophile priests from ministry.

On Saturday, he is due to address thousands of pilgrims at an open-air service in London's Hyde Park.