BY CATHERINE MILNER
POPE JOHN PAUL concluded his four-day trip to America this week much as he had started it: warning the US of moral disintegration.
When Vice-President Al Gore, who is known for his pro-choice stance, saw him off at Denver Airport, the Pope reminded him, as he had reminded President Clinton a few days earlier, of the need to uphold life rather than a "culture of death".
Speaking at last Sunday's Mass in Cherry Creek Park in the Colorado city, he said that death "has assumed a social and institional form of legality to justify the most horri ble crimes against humanity: genocide, final solutions, ethnic cleansing and the massive taking of human beings even before they are born or before they reach the natural point of death".
The Pope said that what was needed was for the younger generation to act by "going out into the streets and into the public places, like the first apostles who preached Christ and the good news of salvation."
Over 180,000 Catholics from 70 countries came to hear the 73-year-old Pontiff speak, often chanting and screaming "I love you".
Further proof of the love and respect that the Pope inspires came in a Washington Post-ABC News poll published on Sunday that reveals that three out of four of America's 38 million Catholics view Pope John Paul as a moral and spiritual leader. Only one in four, however, said they considered his opposition to birth control "personally binding".
In the same survey 31 per cent thought his teaching on divorce was binding and only 39 per cent accepted his admonition of sex outside marriage.
Among the under-30's age group, resistance to the Church's doctrines was more pronounced: 71 per cent were in favour of women's ordination.
Unlike his last US tour in 1979, when he emphasised his opposition to the issue of the ordination of women, or in 1987 when he lectured bishops on dissent, this time the Pope attempted to engage with American youth.
He had come to Denver, he said, as a "Pilgrim of Hope" and had greater confidence than ever in America's youth because "so many young people in all societies refuse to descend into selfishness and superficiality."
He urged young people to give "service to the underprivileged, the poor and the oppressed because justice and freedom are inseparable and exist only if they exist for everyone."
Barbara Crowther, the Youth Officer for CAFOD said: "I'm very keen that the Pope should get young people working for justice and poverty.
"He has an attitude towards young people which is an open invitation. We must look towards the future and make it a better world. The Pope realises enlisting youth is the way forward." (see feature page 2)