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Pope stands firm against abortion

Pope John Paul II condemned abortion as the "shame of humanity" during an address before tens of thousands of people Saturday.

In one of the most vibrant moments of his four-day trip to promote Christian family values, John Paul was greeted by a cheering, flag-waving crowd that nearly filled the 140,000-seat Maracana soccer stadium.The pontiff warned against taking the "road of irresponsible selfishness."

"The family is the patrimony of humanity . . . needed to prolong the presence of man on Earth," John Paul said. He called abortion "an abominable crime, (the) shame of humanity."

The pope heard testaments from 15 families representing 11 countries, who told of finding happiness by following church teaching. They included the daughters of Gianna Beretta Molla, an Italian who died during pregnancy. Molla needed an operation and asked for intervention that would safeguard the life of the baby she was carrying. John Paul beatified her in 1994.

During the pope's visit, he has at times told jokes and merrily waved his cane, captivating crowds here, but he has left no doubt as to his primary mission: defense of the family.

Throughout his tour of Brazil, the world's largest Roman Catholic nation, the pontiff rallied the faithful to stand firm against secular threats like birth control.

Earlier Saturday, the pope extolled family unity at a Mass at Rio's modernistic Metropolitan Cathedral, attended by both bishops and street children.