by Peter Stanford THE first four stop-offs on the Pope's six-nation odyssey in Australasia provided plenty of contrasts, although driving rain and smaller than expected crowds were not amongst them.
From the slums of the Bangladeshi capital Dacca, where his gleaming "Popemobile" looked strangely Out of place, to the opulence of Singapore and its financial markets, and the traditional welcome on Fiji, and in New Zealand, Pope John Paul certainly provided the camerman with some good photographs.
His themes were similar to ones which have dominated recent overseas tours — a restatement of church teaching on birth control, appeals to youth, a call for a new more just world order, and encouragement of steps towards ecumenism.
In overwhelmingly Moslem Bangladesh, Pope John Paul was greeted by Catholic school girls waving flowers. As he ordained 18 local priests — sign of the Church's vitality in the country he said — the Pope added: "you must try to show your Moslem brethren and followers of 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".
He urged "tolerance and openness," a sensitive issue in Bangladesh where Catholics are still regarded with some suspicion.
In Fiji likewise, with its bloody history of conflicts between Catholic and Methodist missionaries, Pope John Paul preached a message of mutual respect.
However, he sounded a note of caution on ecumenism when he arrived in New Zealand. He told local bishops that "true ecumenism is not afraid to acknowledge the difference and divisions that still exist amongst Christians".
In Singapore, where the government has tried to restrict the birth rate to two per family, the Pope attacked "coercion and pressure" in the matter of producing a family.
Maori's in New Zealand were disappointed by the Pope's failure to announce a new Maori bishop, but he countered their demands by emphasising the universality of the Church and its commitment to multiracialism.
• A MAN armed with five petrol bombs was arrested on Tuesday in Brisbane shortly before the Pope arrived. Pope down under pictures, page two