VATICAN CITY (AFP) — Pope Benedict XVI is confident that the US government has done enough to protect him during his upcoming visit to the United States, the Vatican's number two said Sunday.
The pope is "very calm before this trip," Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state and Benedict's top aide, said on Vatican Radio when asked about the risk of a terrorist attack.
The head of the Roman Catholic Church arrives in Washington on Tuesday for a five-day visit that will also take in New York.
"Do you remember his trip to Turkey? There were threats before and during (the trip)," said Bertone.
"This time around there have been threats too, no doubt," he added but did not elaborate.
"We have trust in the protection that the (US) government will put in place wherever the Holy Father will pass, as happened in Turkey," during his visit in late 2006, he said.
That four-day visit came a mere 10 weeks after Benedict outraged Muslims by appearing to equate Islam with violence in a speech in his native Germany.
Police in the United States are expected to mount one of their biggest security operations of the year during Benedict's visit.
It is the first papal trip to the United States since the September 11 attacks of 2001, involving far higher security precautions than during visits by Benedict's predecessor, John Paul II.
Police will work with the Secret Service and the papal Swiss Guard during the visit, which kicks off on April 15, but have declined to say how many officers will be on duty, or divulge what special measures are being taken.
The New York police department has said only that it is working closely with the Secret Service "to provide the highest level of protection possible for the pope during his visit to New York."
Among the now routine security precautions being deployed for the visit will be the use of metal detectors and identity checks for those attending events on the pope's itinerary.
Unlike John Paul II's visit to New York in 1979, when he held an outdoor open-admission event at a park in southern Manhattan, attendance at Benedict's public events is being more strictly controlled.
John Paul's visit to New York in 1995 -- his first to New York after the 1981 assassination attempt against him in the Vatican -- was also relatively open, with a mass in Central Park attended by more than 100,000 people.
This time the pontiff is to attend a reception at the White House on Wednesday and scheduled to address the United Nations General Assembly on Friday.
Other events on the schedule include a visit to Ground Zero, the site of the September 11 attacks in New York, a meeting with Jewish leaders in Washington and a short stop at a synagogue in New York.
But it is his two showpiece events at baseball stadiums in Washington on Thursday and in New York on April 20 that are causing the biggest security challenge.
Access to the pope's appearance at New York's Yankee Stadium, where he is to celebrate mass on April 20, is being strictly controlled with the help of bar-coded, non-transferable tickets and hours-long security procedures.
Federal agents were carrying out background checks on everyone attending the New York event, who were being asked to arrive at their parishes six hours before the service to allow enough time for security, according to reports.
The New York press said agents were also conducting background checks on volunteers from church groups who had signed up to help during the visit.
The numbers of those attending the public events look to be far smaller than in the past. The archdiocese of Washington handed out 46,000 tickets for the mass on Thursday, compared with the 175,000 who attended a mass there by John Paul II in 1979.
The increased security is partly due to specific threats. Last month, Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden accused the pope of being deeply involved in a "new crusade" against Islam.
Jewish leaders meanwhile have criticized him for his refusal to abolish a prayer in the Latin mass in which Roman Catholics pray for the conversion of Jews.
And Sikh leaders have refused to meet the pope after the Secret Service denied them permission to wear their ceremonial dagger, or kirpan -- one of the five items male Sikhs are required to carry.
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