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Abortion Aside, Clinton and Pope 'Share Values' : Religion: Pontiff urges America to 'defend life.' But first meeting between leaders is warm and wide-ranging.

August 13, 1993|WILLIAM D. MONTALBANO | TIMES STAFF WRITER

To deafening cheers, John Paul had entered the stadium in his "Popemobile," alternately clasping his hands together, waving and giving the joyful crowd his papal blessing. Hundreds in the crowd ran across the field toward him as his vehicle circled the stadium.

At the stage he ascended the stairs, and as he reached the top step, a trumpet fanfare sounded. Fourteen young people greeted him there as kettle drums rolled out a primitive beat.

One of them, Martin Hicks, 25, an employee of the Los Angeles Archdiocese and a parishioner of St. Cecilia's Roman Catholic Church in South-Central Los Angeles, told the Pope: "This gathering under your spiritual guidance will bridge a multiethnic diversity and background. We pray this will allow us to love one another more."

John Paul began his third visit to the United States in good spirits, seemingly restored from the rigors of three long and hot days in Jamaica and Mexico that cost him about five pounds. His voice rose in the same cause and cadence as on his last visit to the United States in 1987.

Noting that he had come to preside at his church's eighth international youth celebration, the Pope told Clinton that young people around the world "are striving for a better world" and deserve to be accepted by world leaders "as true partners in the construction of a more humane, more just, more compassionate world."

In his visits to more than 100 countries, the Pope said, he has been "deeply moved" by the almost universal conditions of difficulty in which young people grow up and live. "Too many sufferings are visited upon them by natural calamities, famines, epidemics, by economic and political crises, by the atrocities of war," John Paul told the President.

The Pope also noted his preoccupations with conflicts in the Middle East, Africa and the Balkans, calling for more effective international structures "for maintaining and promoting justice and peace." All those issues and others, including the move of the Vatican and Israel to open diplomatic relations, were grist for the conversation between the two leaders.

Even in societies of plenty like the United States, John Paul told the President in his arrival remarks, young people's paths are often difficult, afflicted by "a serious moral crisis" as a result of "the breakdown of family values and stability."

America, he said, must rededicate itself to the "high moral vision" on which it was founded to effectively confront the problems of its children and to endow them "with a robust sense of responsibility to the common good."

Moral commitments enshrined in American milestones like the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution "sustain values which have led people all over the world to look to America with hope and respect," John Paul said.

Today, the 73-year-old pontiff said, a system of shared moral values must continue to underlie the United States as it moves toward a new century.

"No country, not even the most powerful, can endure if it deprives its own children of this essential good. Respect for the dignity and worth of every person, integrity and responsibility as well as understanding, compassion and solidarity toward others, survive only if they are passed on in families, in schools and through the communications media."

In his remarks, Clinton underlined his support for the social mission of the Catholic church, quoting a line from the inaugural address of President John F. Kennedy: "We must always remember that here on Earth, God's work must be our own."

Reminding the airport crowd of his departing remarks when he last left the United States in 1987, John Paul said: "The ultimate test of your greatness is the way you treat every human being, but especially the weakest and most defenseless ones. The best traditions of your land presume respect for those who cannot defend themselves."

In greeting the cheering young crowd at Mile High Stadium, the Pope stuck close to the theme of a World Youth Day he last visited in Czestochowa, Poland, in 1991.

"We come to Denver as pilgrims," John Paul said. "Pilgrims set out for a destination. In our case it is not so much a place or a shrine that we seek to honor. Ours is a pilgrimage to a modern city, a symbolic destination: The metropolis is the place which determines the lifestyle and the history of a large part of the human family at the end of the 20th Century."

The theme of the meeting is life, John Paul told the crowd, quoting Christ's words from the Gospel of St. John: "I came that they may have life and have it abundantly."

"My purpose in this first meeting with you is to invite you to enter into the depths of your hearts and to live the next few days as a real encounter with Jesus Christ," the Pope said, offering greetings in 14 languages, Croatian to Swahili.

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