VATICAN CITY — A U.S. anti-nuclear activist today scaled a barricade at St. Peter's Basilica during Mass and ran shouting down the center aisle toward Pope John Paul II before he was stopped by Vatican security guards.
Authorities identified the man as Thomas K. Siemer, 57, of Columbus, Ohio, who has gained notoriety with unconventional public appeals to the Pope for action on nuclear disarmament.
Officials said Siemer disrupted the Mass, which marked the conclusion of a monthlong synod of bishops on the Catholic laity, by scaling a barricade, charging down the center aisle of the vast church and shouting at the Pope.
A former engineer with the missile division of Rockwell International, Siemer, apparently unarmed, came within about 20 yards of the Pope before he was restrained by security agents. He was later released, officials said.
A witness said the Pope did not react to the incident and continued with the service.
Siemer recently admitted having circulated a fraudulent papal encyclical on peace.
In November, 1983, Siemer fell off a police barricade in St. Peter's Square while trying to hand an anti-nuclear message to the Pope. He sustained a broken nose and other injuries in the fall.
The father of seven, Siemer worked in the nuclear arms industry until 1976, when he joined the disarmament movement. In August, 1983, he and 13 other pacifists staged a 40-day hunger strike, urging the Pope to condemn the production and testing of nuclear arms.
Siemer recently sent a statement to the Rome office of United Press International, in which he admitted his authorship of the counterfeit encyclical on peace.
The fraudulent papal letter, titled Resurrectio Pacis, or The Resurrection of Peace, declared that it is a sin for Catholics to help build or deploy nuclear arms.
Vatican officials dismissed the encyclical, but the Vatican's pro nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Pio Laghi, mailed letters of warning to all U.S. bishops after some of them received copies of the counterfeit missive, U.S. Church sources said.