Pope decries abortion, gay marriage
Day 2 of John Paul II's trip to Brazil
October 3, 1997
Web posted at: 9:40 p.m. EDT (0140 GMT)
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (CNN) - Pope John Paul II told a Brazilian audience Friday said the institution of the family is threatened by abortion and marital infidelity. The Roman Catholic leader also made a veiled attack on gay and lesbian marriages.
"Marital fidelity and respect for life in all phases of its existence are subverted by a culture that doesn't admit the transcendent nature of man, created in the image and likeness of God," he told delegates to a conference on family issues.
"Among the truths obscured in the hearts of men by growing secularism and rampant hedonism, those regarding the family have come under particular attack," he said.
In his address the pope also said that sexual "diversity" should not be recognized when it comes to marriage, an apparent reference to gay and lesbian marriages, which the Catholic Church opposes.
Brazil in middle of abortion debate
The church also opposes abortion, and Brazil -- the world's largest Catholic country -- is in the throes of a debate over whether abortion should be made more readily available.
Church officials have campaigned against a proposal that would make it easier for women to obtain an abortion in cases of rape or if their health is in danger. But Brazil's first lady, Ruth Cardoso, was quoted by newspapers on Thursday as saying the pope should not seek to influence the debate.
The pope said women needed to enjoy equal dignity in a stable marriage that remained open to procreation.
"When the destructive forces of evil manage to separate marriage from its mission on behalf of life, they attack humanity itself, depriving it of the essential guarantees for its future," the pope said.
'He is still alive!'
Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the pontiff, who has had a series of health problems in recent years, was holding up well on his journey, the 80th trip abroad during his papacy.
The pope himself humorously alluded to his recent frailty upon finishing his statement Friday. Acknowledging cheers of "Long live the pope," from the audience, John Paul paused for a moment, looked up and quipped, "He is still alive!"
The pope then joined in with some boisterous cheering from delegates to the conference, repeating the unofficial slogan of his visit, "If God is Brazilian, then the pope is a Carioca (from Rio)."
On Friday, a German newspaper reported that a top German surgeon was holding talks with the Vatican about carrying out an operation to give the pope an artificial hip. He has limped since slipping in his bath in 1994 and breaking his leg.
Wolfram Thomas told the Flesburger Tageblatt that without the operation, the pope's pain would increase and he might have to eventually use a wheelchair.
Pope meets with Brazil's president
On Friday, the pope held talks in Rio with Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso.
Cardoso later said he and the pope had discussed Brazilian and world problems. He said the pope made an appeal for a more just society, adding that "the Brazilian government joins this appeal."
Upon his arrival Thursday, the pope had spoken out about the gap between rich and poor in Latin America's largest nation and the plight of the landless farmers and street children.
On his way to the meeting with the president at the Palacio Laranjeriras, a baroque palace in the city center, the pope ordered his motorcade to stop so he could meet residents of a nearby slum, or favela.
John Paul lowered the window of his gray Alfa Romeo and greeted a number of the people waiting.
The pope is due to preside at a rally of Catholic families from around the world in the Maracana soccer stadium on Saturday and hold an open-air mass for an expected 1.5 million people on Sunday, the last day of his visit.
Brazilian bishops hope his trip will help bolster the Catholic Church in Brazil, where evangelical churches have made strong inroads in recent years.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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