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Papal Speech Touts Women’s Rights

November 25, 1999

VATICAN CITY (AP) _ Pope John Paul II spoke out Wednesday on the equality of women, condemning sex tourism, prostitution and other practices that he said demean them.

The 79-year-old pope, trembling and appearing drawn, spoke at his weekly general audience. John Paul suffers from symptoms that match those of Parkinson’s disease, although the Vatican has never confirmed that diagnosis.

His comments came days after he reaffirmed the church’s ban on women in the priesthood and asked clerics to help women understand that the ban was God’s will.

On Wednesday, the pope praised women in other roles open to them, urging that they ``be given all the space due them in the church and in society.″

He described women as men’s partners, rather than their servants, correcting what he said was a sometimes mistaken interpretation of a Genesis verse describing women as a ``help″ to man.

``Rather, the expression means that woman is in collaboration with man.″

He said the two sexes are ``constituted in perfect equality of dignity.″

The pope urged his listeners to use the coming Holy Year to intensify their efforts to protect the rights of women.