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Pope: Abortion 'an abominable crime'


3rd day of papal visit to Rio De Janeiro

October 4, 1997
Web posted at: 11:07 p.m. EDT (0307 GMT)

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (CNN) -- Pope John Paul II Saturday issued one of his strongest-ever condemnations of abortion, calling on Roman Catholics to fight what he called an "abominable crime."

The pope, on the third day of a four-day trip to Brazil, invoked the name of the late Mother Teresa in his anti-abortion remarks, given before a crowed of more than 100,000 people at a rally at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro.


"How many times did we hear Mother Teresa's lips proclaim the priceless value of life from the moment of conception in the maternal womb?" the pope said. "Death has silenced those lips, but Mother Teresa's message in favor of life continues to be more vibrant and convincing than ever."

"May the abominable crime of abortion, shame of humanity, not condemn the unborn to the most unjust execution -- that of the most innocent human beings," he said.

Brazil, the world's largest Roman Catholic country, is in the throes of a debate over abortion. The church, which opposes abortion, is campaigning against a bill that would make it easier for Brazilian women to obtain abortions in cases of rape or if their health is in danger.

Pope: Neglecting young 'irresponsible'

Inside the giant Maracana stadium, usually a temple to soccer, a light show transformed the arena into a virtual cathedral, complete with simulated stained glass windows.


In his remarks, John Paul told the crowd that a society that neglected its young was "inhuman and irresponsible."

Abandoned children, known as "meninos de rua" (street children) are a major problem in big Brazilian cities, where they have sometimes become the target of right-wing death squads.

"Households that do not fully educate their children, who abandon them, commit a very grave injustice for which they will have to account before the tribunal of God," the pope said.

Earlier in the day, the pope extolled family unity at a Mass at Rio's Metropolitan Cathedral, attended by both bishops and street children.

Vatican denies report about hip surgery


John Paul, who has been increasingly frail in recent years, appeared to be holding up well since he arrived on Thursday to preside over an international family rights gathering in Rio.

"He is healthy and in good spirits," chief Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls told reporters.

Vatican officials firmly denied a report Friday in a German newspaper that the pope may undergo an operation to install an artificial hi p. The report quoted a doctor who said he was in talks with the Vatican about the surgery.

"The cited doctor ... has never visited the Holy Father," spokesman Navarro-Valls said. "The hypothesis that is being referred to -- surgical operation to correct a functional insufficiency of the right hip -- has never been taken into consideration."

On Sunday, John Paul is scheduled to preside over an open-air Mass near the city's beach front. As many as 2 million people are expected to attend. The pope will then return to Rome.

Rio de Janeiro Bureau Chief Marina Mirabella and Reuters contributed to this report.

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