As Pope John Paul II presided over Palm Sunday ceremonies before 100,000 people in St Peter's Square on Sunday, police were on high alert after a warning to Italy and the Vatican that there could be an Islamic terrorist attack on him over the Easter period.
   The tip-off is said to have come from Mossad, the Israeli security service.
   The exchange of intelligence is said to be one of the first fruits of the warmer relationship between the Holy See and Israel after the Pope's trip to the Holy Land.
   As part of tightened security measures, all those entering St Peter's Square must now pass through one of 35 metal detectors placed between its magnificent 17th-century marble columns.
   Police said that the detectors would be used whenever the Pope was inside the basilica or in the square. Hidden video surveillance cameras have been installed and the number of plainclothes police in the square and on surrounding rooftops increased.
   Commander Roberto Scigliano, the former chief of police in Brindisi, Catania and Bari all seen as crime `hot spots', has been appointed to co-ordinate Italian and Vatican security services at St Peter's.
   Italian intelligence sources told Il Messaggero, the Rome daily, that terrorists were planning to ``strike at the heart of the Catholic Church during the Holy Year''. The target was ``probably the Pope himself'', although other targets were possible, since ``what matters is the symbolism of an outrage ... an attack in or around the Vatican would be enough''.
   Diplomats said that it would be intended to disrupt the Middle East peace process and overshadow the Pope's triumph in the Holy Land, when he not only altered Jewish perceptions of the Church but also backed the moderate Palestinian leadership of Yassir Arafat and endorsed the Palestinian right to a homeland.
Irish Independent


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