Pope Benedict XVI was on Friday at the centre of a security scare as five men, reported to be street cleaners of Algerian descent, were arrested here under terror laws for allegedly posing a potential threat to his life.
Police declined to disclose the nature of the threat and it was not clear whether the alleged plot was targeted against the 83-year-old Pontiff himself.
The Pope's engagements in London on the second day of his four-day state visit remained unchanged. His press spokesman said the Pope remained “calm” and the Vatican was “totally confident” that Scotland Yard had the ability to protect him.
Several properties across London, including the offices of the cleaning company where the alleged suspects worked, were raided. No arms or other hazardous items were found but searches were continuing while the men, aged 26, 27, 36, 40 and 50 years, were being questioned.
The arrests were made early in the morning as the five were preparing to leave the cleaning company's premises to start their shift. Police acted quickly as some of the streets assigned to the alleged suspects were on the Pope's route. Meanwhile, the Pope had a busy day. The highlight of his engagements was a much-anticipated meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, at Lambeth Palace, the Archbishop's official residence. “The Lambeth Palace meeting will mark the first time a Pope has met the Archbishop at his official residence. It is viewed as an important event more than 40 years after official talks began about possible reunification of the two churches,” the BBC said. Earlier, the Pope addressed a multi-faith gathering and an assembly of Catholic schoolchildren.