April 20, 1997
Pope calls for land mine ban, speaks of Sarajevo
VATICAN CITY - Pope John Paul appealed on Sunday for world leaders to work for an outright ban on land mines, saying they were a scourge that still killed people years after wars were over.
The pontiff, whose visit to Sarajevo last weekend was preceded by the discovery of 23 land mines planted along the route of his motorcade, spoke on the subject when greeting members of an Italian group campaigning against mines.
``Today in Saint Peter's Square we have present a large group of representatives of the Italian campaign to ban mines,'' the Pope, reading his text from a balcony overlooking the square, told pilgrims after his noon angelus address.
``These deadly devices continue, in various parts of the world, to kill and mutilate, above all innocent people and even years after the end of hostilities.
``I pray to our Lord of Peace to give those in government the courage to listen to the cries of these victims and to carry out, as soon as possible, negotiations currently under way to achieve the total elimination of such deadly arms.''
A news release handed out by the campaign referred directly to the mines planted before the Pope's Bosnia trip and defused a few hours before he arrived.
Witnesses said that security was noticeably tighter in the square as the Pope spoke, with uniformed and plain-clothes police mingling with the thousands of pilgrims.
Italy has stepped up security at a number of sites this week after a leaked intelligence report warned that Islamic extremists may be planning attacks in the country on targets that included the Pope and other religious figures.
In his homily, the Pope also referred to his trip to Sarajevo, again calling the city ``a symbol of our century.''
``I thank the Lord for the peace process that has begun and I hope that it bears lasting fruits of reconciliation and solidarity,'' the Pope said.
``Now we must without delay continue in coming to the assistance of people so hit in the tragic conflict, to help the victims who still suffer the consequences.
``This is the time of moral and material reconstruction. We continue to be with the people of this beloved region with our energetic solidarity,'' the pontiff told the crowd.
Earlier, the Pope celebrated a mass in Saint Peter's Basilica, where he ordained 30 new Catholic priests from around the world, mostly from Italy and Latin America.
Other countries included the Philippines, Romania, France, Spain, Zaire, India and South Korea.
The faithful entering the Basilica were checked by Italian police with metal detectors at the doors.