Havana Bomb Raises Concern For The Pope’s Visit

A small bomb exploded at a church in Old Havana early today, causing no injuries or serious damage but alarming church officials who are busily preparing for a papal visit in three weeks.

Miguel Saludes, the secretary of La Merced church, confirmed that the bomb went off between 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. in front of the building.

“The explosion was strong. People felt it,” Saludes said. “But it didn’t cause any kind of damage.”

While all uniformed security agents had left the scene within hours of the explosion, one church official said many security agents in civilian clothing were attending the 9 a.m. Mass.

Saludes wasn’t at the church when the explosion occurred, but the church’s five priests were. The Rev. Miguel Angel Renes, who went out to investigate after the explosion, gave a statement to police.

There were no reports of arrests, and no immediate reaction from the government.

The explosion raised concern about the possibility of other violence before and during Pope John Paul II’s trip to Cuba on Jan. 21-25. The Cuban government has promised heavy security for the visit.

During a period beginning Jan. 5 only people with special visas will be allowed into the country. Also, security has been tightened at Havana’s international airport in recent months.


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