John Paul II arrived in war-scarred El Salvador denouncing the ''spilling of so much innocent blood.'' Authorities estimated more than 25,000 people lined the streets near the airport, waiting for the papal motorcade to pass. His arrival coincided with a new government offensive against a rebel drive toward the capital of Morazan province, San Francisco Gotera. Also, an American journalist was released by the rebels he was traveling with, the US Embassy announced.
El Salvador is the fourth of eight countries that the Pope will visit. He already has visited Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Panama. The most difficult stopover was Nicaragua, where the Pontiff received a cool reception. There, he took issue with Nicaragua's ''popular church,'' whose adherents see no contradiction between Christianity and Marxism. Vatican officials said the Pope admonished Culture Minister Ernesto Cardenal, one of five priests holding senior public office in Nicaragua, telling him to put himself ''in order with the church.'' In six months of wrangling, the Vatican unsuccessfully tried to convince the priests to resign from the government.
At times, the Pontiff's speech was drowned out by chants of ''popular power'' and ''they will not pass,'' the slogans of the ruling Sandinist government. The slogans refer to the enemies who Nicaragua says are preparing to attack the country.