by Peter Stanford GREETED by enthusiastic, if somewhat sparse crowds in Belgium and Luxembourg this week, Pope John Paul put to one side his firm reaffirmations of church teaching, so much a feature of his four days in Holland, and turned instead to global issues of racism, unemployment and war and peace.
The Pope paid visits to EEC establishments in both countries and upheld the ideal of unity of nations. "Europeans cannot submit themselves to the division of their continent" he said at the European Commission in Brussels. "The countries which for different reasons do riot belong to your institutions should be included in the fundamental desire for unity; their specific contributions to European heritage cannot be ignored", he went on, in a Clear reference to the east-west division of Europe.
Earlier at EEC headquarters in Luxembourg, the Pope had some harsh words for the community's bureaucrats over the question of food aid. He compared the plight of the starving in the Horn of Africa with the huge food stocks in EEC silos. A leaked report, which appeared as the Pope made his attack, confirmed the point. More than £265 million worth of food and vegetables, 2.2 million tons, have been destroyed by the Common Market.
The issue of co-operation and harmony between nations also surfaced in the Pope's comments when he visited the Menin Gate on Saturday, site of the graves of over 500,000 servicemen killed during the first WorldWar. Pope John Paul spoke of his own "deep convictions and total commitment" to peace.
"Peace is no longer a question which can be dealt with rhetorically, by merely using easy and unilateral signs" he said. Later, in the market square of the neighbouring town of Ypres, the Pope spoke of a justified war, in defence of "true freedom and dignity".
"Those who possess a sense of reality and love for true freedom and dignity of individuals and nations are convinced of the legitimacy of the right to defend oneself against unjust aggression".
Large crowds turned out to hear the Pope, who was surrounded by tight security throughout his stay in Belgium after a series of anti-NATO bombs in the capital Brussels on the eve of his arrival. Police did not want to risk a repetition of the scenes which greeted the pontiff in the Netherlands when extremists turned peaceful antipapal demonstrations into near riots.
Less than 5,000 turned out to welcome the Pope when he arrived in Brussels on Thursday of last week, but by the time he boarded a plane back to Rome on '1 uesday he had won many Belgian hearts.
An open-air Mass in Koekelberg attracted over 100,000 worshippers last Sunday, and they heard the Pope launch a fierce attack on racism, totalitarian ideologies and profit-dominated economies. Later in the day he returned to the theme of social justice in a meeting with the Catholic Workers Union when he restated his view that a job was the basic human right of all.
Some rumblings of discontent were noted in Belgium, but nothing on the scale seen in Holland. On Friday a spokesman for the lay Catholic organisations, Aurelien Thys, "respectfully but urgently" asked the Pope "to proceed with research that is being done into divorce, women's role in the church and married forms of priesthood". The Pope greeted M Thys later, but did not deal specifically with his complaints.
At another meeting in Liege, a laywoman was booed and jeered when she accused the Pope of being out of touch with the realities of his flock. Anne Marie Gilson rejected the "inevitable pomp and splendour surrounding every voyage" by the Pontiff.
see pictures, page two