Police turn away sword-bearing Sikh leader who asked to meet pope
Italian police, on edge after terrorist attacks in the United States, turned away a sword-bearing Sikh leader requesting a meeting with Pope John Paul II.
Accompanied by two dozen bearded and turbaned followers who all wore ornamental eight-inch daggers, Giani Joginder Singh Vedanti showed up unannounced among the 12,000 people in St. Peter's Square on Wednesday for the pope's General Audience.
Dozens of uniformed and plainclothes police officers instantly surrounded Singh, an Indian and one of the world's leading Sikh gurus, as curious tourists looked on. After several moments of anxious walkie-talkie conferencing, police apparently were reassured that the group had no criminal designs. But they refused to let the Sikhs pass a crowd barrier into the square unless they removed their swords.