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Pope Lectures French on Abortion, Sanctity of Marriage

September 21, 1996|From Associated Press

ST. ANNE D'AURAY, France — Pope John Paul II delivered a stern moral lecture Friday to the faithful in France, where his conservative stance on sexual matters has divided Roman Catholics.

After leading about 75,000 people in an outdoor Mass in the sun-dappled Brittany countryside, John Paul spoke with couples in a nearby park about the joys and problems of marriage.

"All around you, awareness of the spiritual grows weaker and many essential values are being questioned, such as the indissolubility of marriage or respect for life," he told them.

In the weeks before the papal visit, hundreds of French Catholics demanded that their names be struck from baptism registries to protest John Paul's opposition to married priests, abortion, birth control and divorce.

While protests are expected for his Sunday Mass honoring a pagan king whose conversion 1,500 years ago has come to symbolize France's Christianity, John Paul was greeted warmly Friday by the largest crowds thus far in his four-day visit.

About 15,000 people chanted "Long live the pope!" in the park near a church dedicated to St. Anne, the mother of the Virgin Mary.

"He still lives, thanks to you," responded the pope, who has been weakened by a series of health problems and is to have an inflamed appendix removed later this year.

John Paul spoke with couples about the responsibilities of Catholics whose marriages fail. The pope said he expects the divorced to accept, "in faith, the truth which the church carries in its discipline regarding matrimony."

Church teaching forbids divorced Catholics to remarry or take Communion.

In the United States and elsewhere, the bans are widely ignored.

John Paul also reiterated his absolute rejection of abortion.

"Every human being who is conceived has the right to exist because the life which is given no longer belongs" to those who conceived it, he said.

To singles, John Paul said he hopes they can find comfort and friendship from other families.

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