Pope Winds Up Trip, Sets Traditional Guidelines For Latin Catholics
ROME (AP) _ Pope John Paul II on Wednesday wound up a six-day visit to the Caribbean made controversial by political tensions in lands he visited and divisions within the church.
He left behind top Vatican officials to pressure Latin American bishops meeting in the Dominican Republic to map out guidelines for the next decade to adhere to the church’s policies against birth control, abortion and divorce.
In a speech Santo Domingo’s airport, John Paul urged the more than 300 bishops ″to infuse a dynamic apostolic renovation in every diocese, parish, community, association and movement of the Latin American church.″
The speech reflected the Roman Catholic church’s concern over major inroads made by Pentacostal and other Prostantant evangelist movements in Brazil, Chile, Guatemala and other Latin American countries during the past decade.
John Paul arrived back in Rome late Wednesday night. His trip - his first since colon surgery in July - was mired in controversy over the millions of dollars spent on his visit and the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of America in the impoverished Dominican Republic.
The pontiff has stressed traditional values for the church, seeking unity among Latin American Catholics to wrestle with the region’s problems, including spreading secularism, poverty and drugs.
In his speech at the opening of the bishops’ 16-day meeting Monday, John Paul said he opposed internal dissent in the church.
He also accused Protestant evangelist groups of having ″a certain strategy, whose objective is to weaken the links that unite the countries of Latin America″ and of investing lots of money in efforts to ″shatter this Catholic unity.″
In his appearances in the Dominican Republic, the pope distanced himself from the Columbus quincentennial celebrations, which had prompted widespread demonstrations in recent weeks.
But the Polish-born pontiff did celebrate a public Mass at a cross-shaped lighthouse monument to Columbus, built by Dominican President Joaquin Balaguer. The pope acknowledged abuses by colonists but hailed Columbus’ introduction of Christianity to the New World.
In remarks concerning Haiti, made to Haitian bishops he met in the Dominican Republic, John Paul said church unity was needed, but made no mention by name of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was ousted from the presidency in a military coup in September 1991. The pope did not visit Haiti on this trip.
Aristide, a radical Roman Catholic priest who often fought with the Vatican over his political activities, won Haiti’s first democratic presidential election in December 1990. His restoration has been supported by the Organization of American States with a crushing economic trade embargo on Haiti. Aristide has bitterly accused the Vatican of trying to undermine his effort to return to power.
John Paul urged Haitians to rally around their bishops and ″put an end to sterile divisions″ - an apparent criticism of the grass-roots movement Aristide fostered that battled the conservative church hierarchy.
His comments also amounted to an indirect endorsement of the Haitian bishops’ call for an end to the U.S.-backed OAS trade embargo against Haiti.