LONDON—British police staged a pre-dawn raid at a London garbage depot Friday, arresting five street cleaners in a suspected terrorist plot against Pope Benedict XVI on the second day of his state visit to Britain. A sixth person was arrested later in the day.
The Vatican said the pope was calm despite the arrests and planned no changes to his schedule. But the arrests overshadowed a major address by Benedict to British politicians, businessmen and cultural leaders about the need to restore faith and ethics to public policymaking.
Police said the five were arrested "on suspicion of the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism." Police said a sixth man - a 29-year-old - was arrested later in the day at his home but no other details were immediately available.
The pope's visit has divided opinion in officially Protestant, highly secular Britain. The trip has been overshadowed by disgust over the Catholic Church's clerical abuse scandal and opposition from secularists and those opposed to the pope's stances against homosexuality and using condoms to fight the virus that leads to AIDS.
The detained suspects worked for a contractor on behalf of Westminster Council, the authority responsible for much of central London. Benedict spent much of the afternoon in Westminster Hall and Westminster Abbey; the depot were the men were arrested is responsible for cleaning another part of London that the pope is not due to visit, however, police said.
Police confirmed that some of the suspects were thought to be from outside Britain but declined to comment on media reports they were of Algerian origin.
One street sweeper at the depot, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said at least one of those arrested was Algerian, and that he believed all five arrested in the morning were from North Africa.
Veolia Environmental Services, the cleaners' company, had no immediate comment on the arrests.
At the scene of the arrests in Chiltern Street, close to London's Madame Tussauds' tourist attraction, police cordoned off part of the road, removing items from the Veolia depot and examining nearby garbage cans.
The pope's security on this trip has been visibly higher than on previous foreign trips, and Vatican officials have acknowledged that Britain represents a higher security threat than the other European countries Benedict has visited this year, including Portugal, Malta and Cyprus.
News of the arrests came as the pope was meeting representatives of other religions, including Muslims and Jews, and stressing the need for mutual respect, tolerance and freedom. The Vatican said the pope was informed of the arrests and was pleased he could stick to his schedule.
"We have complete trust in the police," Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi told reporters. "The police are taking the necessary measures. The situation is not particularly dangerous."
"The pope is happy about this trip and is calm."
Hours after the arrests, Benedict met with the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the spiritual leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, at his London residence. The meeting came amid new tensions following Benedict's unprecedented decision last year to make it easier for Anglicans opposed to the ordination of women bishops to convert to Catholicism.
Benedict and Williams greeted each other warmly. Benedict said flat-out he had no intention of speaking of difficulties "that are well known to everyone here." Rather, he stressed the need for Christians to work together and bring a greater sense of virtue into public discourse.
Williams, who has not hidden his dismay over the Vatican's invitation to conservative Anglicans, also stressed the ongoing effort to bring the two churches back together, saying each side was "made less by the fact of our dividedness."
He praised Benedict for his constant call to bring faith into public policy - a theme Benedict explored further in a speech in Westminster Hall attended by former Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher, John Major, Gordon Brown and Tony Blair, who recently converted to Catholicism.
Benedict praised Britain's democracy as a model worldwide for valuing freedom of speech and respect for law.