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Vatican spokesman speaks of Pope's determination in the face of security concerns

Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro-Valls has revealed the Pope entertained discussion of security concerns surrounding his Kazakhstan visit, but insisted that the trip go ahead.

"Of course, the international situation is worrying," he told reporters. "However, in this atmosphere, the Pope's visit to Kazakhstan, where there are so many minorities, assumes a new symbolic dimension, in which the Pontiff can exhort to mutual coexistence among peoples."

Navarro-Valls denied media reports that the US government assured the Pope that a military intervention would not begin in nearby Afghanistan during the papal visit.

Asked if he takes seriously talk that the Pope might be a target of terrorist action, he said: "I cannot pass judgment on the seriousness of these affirmations, as there are no facts to confirm it of which we are aware."

He explained that Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano had remained in Rome to monitor developments: "These days there have been contacts with the authorities of several countries and religious communities that wish to know the Pope's point of view on the international situation, or that wish to discuss different points of view with the Holy See."