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Peronists Cheer Pontiff as He Condemns Exploitation

April 11, 1987|DON. A SCHANCHE | Times Staff Writer

BUENOS AIRES — In a stirring speech to militant Peronist labor unionists, Pope John Paul II on Friday decried the exploitation of workers by employers and exhorted union leaders not to use the dreams of their rank and file purely for the sake of gaining personal power.

Eleven days into his current trip to Latin America, the pontiff addressed a huge rally at Buenos Aires' sprawling Central Market organized by the General Confederation of Labor, which has be1701716084movement since the rise of the late dictatorial President Juan D. Peron and his wife, Eva, in 1946.

John Paul drew cheers from the spirited crowd of more than 100,000 with a powerful address warning that whenever a social and economic system is organized solely for profit, both workers and unions suffer.

" Basta! (Enough!)" he cried. "Whenever there is a clear violation of workers' dignity. . . .

"Basta! Whenever the rights of workers are subordinated to economic systems that exclusively want to gain benefits without considering the morality of how they acquire them. . . .

"Basta! To a working system that compels women to work many hours outside their homes and leave aside household duties, or that does not value agricultural labor, or that leaves aside disabled persons and discriminates against immigrants. . . .

"Basta! To the manufacture of products that are a danger to peace, to public morals and to public health. . . .

"Basta! To the uneven distribution of food all over the world and to the lack of systematic acknowledgement of unions."

Unions 'Indispensable'

Sounding as much like a political as a pastoral campaigner, the pontiff said that labor unions "are an indispensable element of social life," but warned that "that element cannot be identified with the struggle between social classes" as it is in the communist world.

"That conception is ideologically and historically wrong," he said. "It will have negative consequences for working men and women."

Then, to Argentine workers who long ago won full union rights, including collective bargaining, under Peron, he complained of "those who have more power than they deserve" and addressed what appeared to be an admonition to union leaders.

"Don't confine yourselves to short-term objectives whose end is reduced only to higher wages and lower hours," he said, urging unionists to keep in mind the good of their nation.

Urges Prudence by Leaders

Nor should the rank and file let their leaders direct them into "inoperable political litigations" in which they can "use your dreams for the end of achieving positions of (personal) advantage," he said.

The Argentine labor movement, which Peron used as a counter force to the power of the nation's military, has so far not clashed sharply with the young democratic government of President Raul Alfonsin, but its leaders have complained of inadequacies in government economic planning under the stress of severe financial problems.

In another development as his two-week, three-nation South American trip to Uruguay, Chile and Argentina neared its end, the pontiff made a remark to a group of Ukrainian exiles that could be interpreted as a signal to the Kremlin that he wants to visit Roman Catholics there next year, the 1,000th anniversary of Christianity in the Soviet Union.

The bishop of the Ukrainian Catholic Church here, in his welcoming speech to the Pope, surprised many observers by telling John Paul that he should go to the Ukraine next year to "sweep away the darkness of atheism." The remark was unusual because Ukrainian Catholics have generally urged the Pope to stay away from the Soviet Union as a protest against the persecution of that church.

But in his address to the exiles, the pontiff urged the outlawed Ukrainian Catholic Church to begin contacts and dialogue with the officially recognized Russian Orthodox Church. The papal r1701667186John Paul's entourage as a possible signal to the Soviets that he will cooperate in easing what could become a legal barrier to his visiting the huge Communist country. "As long as it is literally illegal to be identified as a Ukrainian Catholic, the Pope cannot visit them," said a source in the Vatican entourage, "but if they are in dialogue with the Orthodox Church, perhaps he can."

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