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Pope Says Child Bearing Is Fundamental Right

November 20, 1986

SINGAPORE (AP) _ Pope John Paul II today told worshipers in this densely populated city- state that married couples should be free to decide how many children to have.

The Roman Catholic pontiff left Singapore after a five-hour stop en route to Fiji, one of six Asian and Pacific states he is visiting on a two-week tour.

John Paul arrived in this Asian financial center from Bangladesh during a light drizzle that turned into a violent thunderstorm, drenching most of the estimated 70,000 people who filled the outdoor National Stadium for a Mass.

Singpore, which has about 100,000 Roman Catholics, has actively discouraged large families.

In his homily at the Mass, the pope said he wished to ″assure couples that the church supports them as they strive to exercise responsibly their fundamental right to form families, to bear and rear their children without any form of coercion or pressure.

″It is the right of the married couple to make a free, informed and mutual decision, in accordance with accepted moral principles, regarding the spacing of births and the size of the family,″ he said.

The Asian-Pacific trip is John Paul’s 32nd foreign tour since assuming the papacy in 1978. He is to go to New Zealand, Australia and the Seychelles before returning to Rome on Dec. 1.

John Paul did not raise the issue of birth control in Bangladesh, a poor, densely populated country of about 100 million. The Catholic Church opposes what it calls artificial birth control - methods using drugs or devices.

Singapore, at the tip of the Malay Peninsula, has about 2.5 million people -approximately 10,400 per square mile, according to the most recent available figures, issued in 1984. That is one of the highest population densities in the world.

The government once offered financial inducements and disincentives aimed at limiting births to two children per family. The program was allowed to lapse after the birth rate fell sharply.

More than 100 Catholic students stood in the drizzle waving yellow orchids as the pope arrived. During his whirlwind stopover here, the pope called on President Wee Kim Wee and Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.

Asked why John Paul came to Singapore, 10-year-old Aileen Teo, who waited in the drizzly weather to greet the pontiff, said, ″He has come to see the poor people, listen to their troubles, help them and pray for them.″

Horace Wee of the Papal Visit Committee said free tickets to the Mass were issued today in an attempt to prevent scalping and forger.

The stadium originally had been booked for another Paul - singer Paul Anka - but organizers of his pop concert agreed to a change to accommodate the pope.

Earlier today, at the end of a state visit to Bangladesh, the pope called for an international dialogue to dispel fear and distrust between Christians and Moslems.

He was seen off at the Dhaka international airport by Bangladesh President Lt. Gen. Hussain Mohammed Ershad, his Cabinet members and chiefs of staff of the army, air force and navy.

The Polish-born leader of the world’s 800 million Roman Catholics discussed Catholic-Moslem relations at a Mass on Wednesday, saying, ″You must try to shw your Moslem brethren and the followers of the other religious traditions that your Christian faith, far from weakening your sense of pride in your homeland and your love for her, helps you to prize and respect the culture and heritage of Bangladesh.

Of Bangladesh’s 103 million people, 85 are percent Moslems. Christian’s number only about 280,000.

Leading newspapers today praised the pope’s first visit to Bangladesh, saying it will greatly strengthen ties between Bangladesh and the Vatican.

The pope delivered six addresses, celebrated a Mass, ordained 18 Bangladeshi bishops, and visited the national monument for unknown martyrs outside Dhaka during his busy 24-hour stay.

At one point in his visit, John Paul abandoned his bullet-proof ″popemobile″ for a 200-yard ride in a bicycle rickshaw pedaled by a gaunt, wiry man who earns the equivalent of $1 a day.

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