50,000 in Uruguay’s Gaucho Region Hear Pope

Associated Press

Pope John Paul II visited Uruguay’s impoverished gaucho country Sunday and voiced strong support for labor unions, but he warned against ideologies claiming to have all the answers to workers’ problems.

The Pope told a crowd of about 50,000 that he feels close “in word and heart” to those involved in union activities--an apparent reference to the current labor unrest in his native Poland. On Saturday, during his flight from Rome to Uruguay, the pontiff issued words of support to the Polish strikers.

The Pope visited Melo on the second day of a 12-day, four-country South American tour.

In Melo, cowboys on horseback, wearing flat-crowned black hats and blankets draped over their shoulders, lined the route to the Pope’s prayer service in a large park.

“Those, who with zeal and sacrifice, seek to better the conditions of workers deserve unconditioned support,” said the Pope. He warned that “no ideology can claim to have a monopoly on solutions to social problems.”


This has been a frequent papal theme on the pontiff’s eight earlier visits to Latin America, especially in places where Marxists challenge the established economic order.

Although the Pope did not mention Poland in his Melo remarks, Vatican officials said he was following the situation there closely.

As John Paul flew the 250 miles to Melo from Montevideo, his Uruguayan air force jet passed over herds of cattle grazing in lush fields. Despite the cattle industry, Melo is one of Uruguay’s poorest areas. The town of 39,000 people near the Brazilian border has been hit hard by unemployment.

Referring to the unjust distribution of wealth, the Pope said those who own land and other property have an obligation to put their wealth to the benefit of the entire community. “Private property includes a social mortgage,” he said.

In Montevideo, a Polish-Jewish survivor of a Nazi concentration camp in World War II said that the Pope embraced him with “great emotion” upon hearing his story.

Chil Rajman, 75, now an Uruguayan citizen, said that during a brief meeting Saturday night between the Pope and members of this country’s small Jewish community, he mentioned that he had been in the German-run death camp in Treblinka, Poland.

“The Pope grasped my hand with great emotion and said to me: ‘You were in Treblinka and you survived,’ ” Rajman said.

Uruguay, with about 50,000 Jews among its 3 million Catholic inhabitants, guarantees the freedom of religion.