Weary from visiting 17 cities in 12 days and hoarse after 45 formal speeches in settings as diverse as the sweltering Amazon jungle and the bitterly cold Andean capital of the Incas, Pope John Paul II ended his South American tour Tuesday with a plea for the nonviolent liberation of the continent's poor and oppressed.
Speaking to more than 300,000 poor Peruvians in a Lima slum in the morning, the pontiff urged the authorities to give the poor a better break and stressed to the deprived his injunction to work with love, not violence, for liberation.
Emphasizing the principal theme of this papal visit to Latin America, his sixth trip there in six years, John Paul warned against "the illusion of seductive ideologies and alternatives that suggest violent solutions."
He addressed "an urgent appeal to the authorities" to do everything possible to give "dignity, education, work, housing, and sanitation assistance" to the poor.
Amid Peru's Indians
A few hours later, he made a brief airport stop at the Amazon river-bank town of Iquitos, whose frontier quality was heightened by the presence of scores of expressionless Indians in feathered headpieces and body paint. The Pope again expressed his compassion for the downtrodden, telling the native Amazonians that "you were victims of the greed" of Peruvian settlers. He called on the Peruvian authorities to make laws on the Indians' behalf, particularly laws on land rights.
Here in the eastern Caribbean island nation of Trinidad and Toba go, the pontiff asked his audience of 40,000 to 50,000, during a two-hour Mass, to avoid "such evils as conjugal infidelity and divorce . . . drugs, alcohol and premarital sex."
Although his visit to the Western Hemisphere ended near midnight, when his Alitalia DC-10 jet took off for an overnight flight to Rome, his attention to South America's problems remains constant, his aides said. The pontiff is particularly concerned about sharp divisions within the Latin American church over the correct route to liberation.
He used the strenuous visit in effect as a counteroffensive against some Roman Catholic liberation theologians, whose sometimes radical approach to defining the religious mission to the poor and to the downtrodden of the Third World has drawn Vatican criticism.
Aims OK, Not Tactics
John Paul has embraced most of the social aims of the movement, while firmly condemning its political activism and some liberation theologians' use of Marxist terminology, analysis and concepts such as class war. In South America, he struck out at "those who affirm that social injustices can only disappear through class hatred or recourse to violence or other anti-Christian methods."
At the outset of the journey, in Caracas, Venezuela, on Jan. 26, he demanded of local bishops that they bring the theological dissidents into line when they "disfigure the Gospel message, using it at the service of ideologies and political strategies in search of an illusory earthly liberation."
In the Andean mountain town of Merida, Venezuela, he called for docility in heeding the teachings of Rome and warned the faithful against letting themselves "be taken in by doctrines or ideologies contrary to Catholic dogma--as certain groups of materialistic inspiration or doubtful religious content would wish."
As he pursued the theme in town after town, invoking his own notion of liberation--one that stresses religious inspiration and love instead of class conflict and a politicized church.
The church's often-proclaimed "preferential option for the poor" must include all who suffer a poverty of spirit, he declared in Quito, Ecuador. But the material divisions between them must be narrowed, he said, adding that it is time for people to "get moving so that this intolerable abyss that separates those very few who possess excessive riches and the great multitudes of the poor--including those who live in misery--gradually disappears."
Guerrillas Deaf to Plea
How well his message got across may be debated in South America for months to come, but one of the most fervent of his pleas during the trip appeared to fall on deaf ears. That was his emotional call to Maoist members of the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) guerrilla movement in Peru to lay down their arms.
After John Paul's plea to them that "evil is never the road to good," the guerrillas saluted his final night in Lima by blacking out the city. Characteristically, the Pope ignored what appeared to be their rejection of his message and carried on as if the lights had never stopped burning.