January 11, 1998 in Nation/World

Spy Device Endangered Pope’s Visit Hidden Microphone Discovered Where He’ll Stay, Report Says

Associated Press

The Vatican threatened to reconsider Pope John Paul II’s visit to Cuba after a bugging device was discovered in a parish house where he is scheduled to stay, a Spanish newspaper reported Saturday.

Vatican aides found the hidden microphone in October as they prepared for the pontiff’s Jan. 21-25 visit to the Caribbean nation, the El Pais newspaper quoted unidentified Vatican officials as saying. The newspaper did not give the location of the house.

The Vatican’s secretary of state protested to the Cuban government, and threatened to reconsider the papal visit, the newspaper said.

Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls refused to comment on the report.

Cuban officials, the paper said, admitted that the microphone may have been in the house but claimed it dated to the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, who was overthrown by Fidel Castro in 1959.

Experts who examined the microphone said that while it was an unsophisticated device, they did not believe it was nearly 40 years old, El Pais said.

The discovery of the microphone led Castro to declare Christmas Day a national holiday in an attempt to mollify angry church officials, it said.

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