DETROIT — Pope John Paul II ended an emotional and exhausting 6,000-mile, 10-day U.S. visit Saturday with a pointed call for Americans to ban abortion to guarantee "respect for life."
Speaking to Vice President George Bush and a farewell crowd amid tight security at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, the pontiff recited what amounted to a love letter to "a dynamic nation, a warm and welcoming people . . . America the beautiful."
But with the praise he warned that "all the great causes that are yours today will have meaning only to the extent that you guarantee the right to life and protect the human person."
Protection of the Unborn
Four times in his brief departure speech the Pope returned to the anti-abortion theme, calling for legal protection of the unborn though not specifically using the word abortion.
"All this . . . will succeed only if respect for life and its protection by the law is granted to every human being from conception until natural death," said John Paul in his prepared text. The use of the term "natural death" was a reference to the Roman Catholic Church's opposition to euthanasia.
"This is the dignity of America," he continued, "the reason she exists, the condition for her survival--yes, the ultimate test of her greatness: to respect every human person, especially the weakest and most defenseless ones, those as yet unborn."
Though church opposition to abortion is nothing new, the Pope's strong words seemed certain to intensify efforts by abortion opponents to outlaw the procedure. The Pope spoke only hours after police arrested 20 demonstrators who tried to disrupt a Detroit abortion clinic.
Private Meeting With Bush
Bush held a private meeting with the pontiff at the airport and hailed John Paul's U.S. visit in a send-off speech.
Earlier, showing the strain and fatigue of a nine-city tour in which he delivered 45 speeches, the 67-year-old pontiff exhorted Americans to personal involvement in the quest for social justice, peace and international solidarity.
"America is a very powerful country," John Paul told an estimated 30,000 people at Hart Plaza in downtown Detroit. "The amount and quality of your achievements are staggering. . . . You may choose to close in on yourselves to enjoy the fruits of your own form of progress and try to forget about the rest of the world. Or, as you become more and more aware of your gifts and your capacity to serve, you may choose to live up to the responsibilities that your own history and accomplishments place on your shoulders."
The theme of American responsibility was familiar to those who have followed the Pope on his second pastoral visit to the United States. He first raised it in remarks to President Reagan on landing at Miami International Airport, and he stressed it at nearly every stop during a journey that took him across the Sun Belt to Los Angeles, up the California coast and then here.
"There is poverty among you when the old and the weak are neglected and their standard of living constantly declines," he noted in his Hart Plaza speech. "There is poverty when illness takes away the wage earner from a family. There is material need and suffering in those areas or groups where unemployment risks become endemic. There is poverty in the future of those that cannot enjoy the benefits of basic education."
And, in a city that has seen severe economic dislocation in the automobile industry over the last decade, John Paul warned that technological change could hurt workers even while streamlining industry. Robotics and other industrial innovations "if not analyzed carefully or tested as to their social costs, may produce undue hardship for many, either temporarily or more permanently," the pontiff said.
Underscore Societal Ills
The schedule for the Pope's daylong visit here served to underscore the societal ills and tensions that he talked about. Hart Plaza is on the edge of a highly segregated urban center largely shunned by whites and hobbled by crime and unemployment.
But on Saturday, both blacks and whites mingled in the streets near the Detroit River while soul queen Aretha Franklin warmed up the papal audience with gospel hymns. Many in the crowd said they were not Catholic but had come to be inspired by a man they considered a symbol of faith in God.
"We really need someone to get our young people back on the religious road," said Lois Wilson, a Baptist who had brought her 10-year-old grandson to hear the Roman Catholic leader. "In our city we have the worst crime and the worst drugs. I hope to hear something to enlighten young people to get closer to God and their family."
Earlier, the Pope enjoyed one of the warmest receptions of his tour at an outdoor address in tiny Hamtramck, a white enclave surrounded by the overwhelmingly black neighborhoods of Detroit.