rrHE reason for the enor mous military police turnout in Bogota, Colombia, for the Pope's visit to the Eucharistic Congress was to ensure that "the 'haves' continue to 'have',' said English pilgrim Patrick Flood when he returned to London last week.
"I also think now I understand why the United States prefers a status quo policy to a Communist Latin America," added Mr. Flood, who was shocked by the frightening poverty he witnessed during his short stay.
"If I was asked to sum up my impressions, I would say the furore about the pill fades into complete insignificance beside the urgent and explosive question of social justice. "If contraceptives were declared morally right tontorrow, the inhabitants of Latin America, who are most concerned, would be able to purchase them as easily as they could purchase a slice of the moon."
One of the most distressing moments of his stay in Colombia, he said, was a visit to the shanty town of "La Pola." Here there are streets upon streets of paper, wood and tin one-roomed shacks, with no beds, water and no drains. The "squatter" inhabitapts live in unbelievable filth ahd poverty, surrounded by open sewage drains.
Children abound, with evidence of scurvy, eye-diseases and lack of proper food. Five cents, less than a penny, is a lot of money for these people where the working man is lucky to earn £12 a month, if he can get a job. "When you consider that food prices are as dear as in England, it's easy to underStand why the people are so miserable.
"Maids in private houses get five or six shillings a month, but, of course, they have food and bed provided." Reporting on the Congress and the life of Colombia itself, Mr. Flood said, apart from the Pope's visit, the "meat" of the Congress was the frank and uninhibited discussion at a series of seminars.
These were ecumenical in tone, with the laity being given plenty of opportunity to speak out.