Pope John Paul II flew Monday to Paraguay, the last stop of a 12-day trip to South America, following a 39-hour visit to Peru where authorities captured a presumed rebel and church officials denounced reports of a purported attack on the pontiff.
John Paul II took off from Group No. 8 air base in Lima aboard an Aeroperu DC-8 jetliner at 9:22 a.m. (8:22 MDT) for Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay - the last and potentially most sensitive stop on his four-nation, 12-day South American tour.Hours earlier, police arrested a presumed Shining Path rebel dressed in a military uniform near a communications relay station that links air base traffic controllers to aircraft, police said.
The same communications station was shot at by presumed Maoist Shining Path guerrillas armed with submachine guns on Saturday morning, hours before John Paul II arrived in Peru for a 39-hour visit.
Police did not say whether the presumed rebel was armed when he was detained or if he sought to interfere with the pope's plane.
Meanwhile, Peru's Catholic bishops issued a statement condemning "alarming news" about a purported attempt to kill John Paul II in Lima.
Bishops "feel the obligation to say that, apart from a blackout in the city caused by international terrorism, there has been no attack against the life of the Holy Father," the statement said.
A power outage caused by rebel bombings of electricity towers outside of Lima briefly blacked out 40 percent of Lima and a 550-mile swath of the Pacific coast Saturday night, but did not interfere with the pope's activities.
Church sources said a European medium had falsely reported that left-wing rebels had tried to kill the pope.
Paraguayan strongman Gen. Alfredo Stroessner backed down last week on his plan to cancel a meeting Tuesday between the pope and a group of business and political leaders, including government critics.
The group - called "Builders of Society" - is sponsored by the Roman Catholic Church of Paraguay.
A Vatican spokesman expressed "astonishment" last week when Paraguayan authorities cited "security reasons" and canceled the papal meeting with the group.