SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- Pope John Paul II arrived here last night on a five-day visit planned around the 500th anniversary of Columbus' arrival in the Americas.
In a 10-minute arrival statement, the pope, looking slightly drawn, likened his visit to that of the first missionaries. Then, in a seeming allusion to the bitter dispute over Columbus' legacy, he said he had come on the 500th anniversary of Christianity in the New World "without a spirit of triumphalism, or false shame, but giving thanks to God."
Unlike many of his trips in recent years, the pope, 72, blessed the crowd at a brief ceremony, then retired for a private dinner rather than plunging himself immediately into a busy schedule. It was his first trip abroad since he underwent abdominal surgery in July.