by Peter Stanford THE Pope's outspoken opposition to divorce and his silence until the end of his Argentinian trip on human rights' abuse carried out by the country's former military rulers combined to lessen the effects of his appeals throughout his stay for social reconciliation.
Speaking in Cordoba Cathedral, the Pontiff warned that pending legislation before the Argentinian Senate would undermine society. "The spread of divorce in society is accompanied with a reduction in public morality in all sectors" he warned. The people of Argentina must make a "particular commitment", Pope John Paul urged, "and take a supreme interest in the reality of matrimony and of the family during this time of trial and grace".
Opinion poll§ §uggat that the majority of Argentinians see divorce as a necessary if regrettable piece of civil machinery. The bill, which has already received overwhelming support in the Chamber of Deputies, will come before the more conservative Senate on April 22. It was not until the final day of his seven day tour that Pope John Paul turned his attention publicly to Argentina's recent history and the "disappearances" under the military regime. Speaking to a million people who jammed the centre of Buenos Aires to give the Pontiff a rousing send-off that contrasted with a generally muted reception in the provinces, John Paul confirmed that he had not forgotten the tens of thousands of dissidents who had "disappeared" under the military rule. "May no brother be opposed to a brother. May there be no more kidnapping victims and
The Pope's words at the end of this, his longest journey outside Italy, did not satisfy civil rights activists and relatives of the disappeared. They were unhappy that the Pope had met with their respresentatives and that he had only made limited contact with the poor of the country. The leader of the mothers of the "disappeared" encouraged the Pope to return to Rome if he was not prepared to listen to their case histories.
Pope John Paul, however, vigorously defended Argentina's Catholic Bishops against accusations that they had been silent during the brutality of the "dirty war". Shortly before boarding his plane back to Rome, the Pope spoke of the bishops "constant efforts and concern during the difficult moments in which violence led to pain and death". He went on to reassure the hierarchy: "I know of documents that strongly condemned the violence and urged reconciliation".
However, a member of the .hierarchy, Bishop Miguel Esteban Hesayne, told the Pope when he visited the site of Argentina's proposed new capital, Viedma, that "as a church, we did not always identify with the poor, the needy and the persecuted". He told Pope John Paul that under the military rulers "to serve the poor was dangerous".
Sunday was International Youth Day and to the assembled throngs in Buenos Aires, Pope John Paul pledged reconstruction and "the building of a civilisation of love". He urged young people during a three and a half hour Mass to "sow the seeds of peace and hope".
It was thought to be the first time that a pope had been outside Rome on Palm Sunday in modern history.