President Reagan greeted Pope John Paul II on American...

By HELEN THOMAS, UPI White House Reporter

FAIRBANKS, Alaska -- President Reagan greeted Pope John Paul II on American soil today and told the pontiff he could think of no more fitting way to conclude his recent 'mission of peace' to China.

An estimated 10,000 people crowded the airport to witness the historic meeting, the first between Reagan and the pope since the establishment of full diplomatic relations between the United States and the Vatican.


Reagan first met John Paul in Rome in 1982.

'No one knows better than your holiness that the quest for human rights and world peace is a difficult, often disheartening task,' Reagan said at a red-carpet welcoming ceremony for the pope.

The pope drew a round of cheers as he said, 'It gives me great pleasure to visit Alaska once again, and from this northern state to send a feeling of special warmth and affection to all the citizens of the United States.'


John Paul's last visit was to Anchorage where his plane refueled on the way home from his first trip to Asia in February 1981.

Security was very tight at the airport, with a helicopter hovering overhead throughout the pope's visit.

At the brief outdoor ceremony on the tarmac of Fairbank's International airport, John Paul called for 'a dialogue that is honest and frank' between peoples of different backgrounds.

'To live in harmony and concord,' he said, 'requires a constant openess to each other on the part of each individual and group.'

'It is expressed in a dialogue that is honest and frank -- one that is based on mutual respect,' he said. 'Openess to others begins in the heart.'

The pope arrived in Fairbanks for a three-hour refueling stop en route to Seoul, Korea. Reagan stopped off in the frontier American city on his way home from China so he could meet with the Roman Catholic leader.

Reagan, who was due back in Washington late today, told the pope that his pastorate represents 'one of humanity's greatest moral and spiritual forces.

'Your visit is particularly significant, coming as it does soon after the re-establishment of (diplomatic) relations between the Holy See and the United States,' Reagan said. 'For over a century, we maintained warm and fruitful, but informal relations. Now we have exchanged ambassadors, and we hope to build on this new relationship to our mutual benefit and to the benefit of peace-loving people everywhere.'


It was the first time that the two leaders have met since the United States established diplomatic relations with the Vatican in January, and the first time ever on American soil.

'We are just returning from a mission of peace,' Reagan told John Paul, 'and I can think of no more fitting way to close this journey than to be in the presence of your holiness, who has worked so diligently for recognition of the rights and dignity of the individual, and peace among nations.'

Reagan said the pope is a source of solace, inspiration and hope 'for those who suffer oppression or the violenceof war.

'For this heroic ministry,' he said, 'the American people are grateful to you and we wish you every encouragement in your journeys for peace and understanding in the world.'

Vatican sources said Reagan sought the meeting with John Paul and that the pope was eager to hear about developments in China and to discuss Central America, the Middle East, Poland and other troubled areas of the globe.

But, the sources said, the pope does not want to help Reagan campaign for Catholic votes in the presidential election this year.

The White Houe aide said that the Vatican had asked for landing and refueling rights in Alaska for the pope's journey to Asia and had expressed interest in having him met by a delegation 'at the appropriate level.'


It then occurred to State Department protocol officials that Reagan would be passing through Alaska about the same time and they 'decided it would be a good idea' for Reagan to greet the pope, the aide said.

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